In Which Haghuf Expresses Himself With
Post-Childbirth Sex the Dance of Creation
It took me weeks to get around to the second section of Dance of the Goblins because oh my brothers and oh my sisters, it does not get better. The style is still dry and wordy, and the comma splices AUGH THE COMMA SPLICES. Until DotG, I didn't know that I knew what a comma splice was. Then, after I ran into the fifth page in a row with one of those mysterious misshapen Siamese-twin sentences on it, my subconscious whispered, "Comma splice."
"That. Right there. It's a comma splice."
"Couldn't be. For one thing, I know its name. If I know the name of a grammatical structure, I invariably have it wrong. So there."
And then my subconscious faded into silence.
According to Wikipedia, my subconscious does indeed know what it's talking about. So: Comma splices, DotG has them.
And now you see what insane lengths I will go to to avoid talking about the book.
So. Instead of a blow-by-blow, a few bullet points [SPOILERS AHOY]:
- There are two kinds of people in this world: the good guys, and the stupid peasants. All the good guys speak alike, including a centuries-old goblin who lives underground and speaks Goblin and a young human aristocrat who lives in a castle and speaks English. All the stupid peasants speak in official Peasante Speeche. (With the exception of Ranalf, whose superior English and grooming mark him as made of finer stuff.)
The author objected to my description of the characters' speech patterns, so in all fairness, I'll admit that it's often tough to tell the difference between good-guy speech and Peasante Speeche. All the characters speak more or less alike, with extra polysyllabics at the top end and extra groveling at the bottom end.
At one point, Haghuf visits a goblin woman who has just given birth to a deformed child that won't live long. He pays her his respects and tells her he's visiting the Kol'ksu (pron. Kolboingksu), a race of mermaid-like goblins who have the power of prophecy. She gives him the child as a gift to them. When Haghuf finally reaches the Kolboingksu (involving a long walk down eerie, deserted hallways while carrying a dying child who does not merit a single mention over the course of the journey), he meets the Kolboingksu prophetess Le-ina (Lezipina). She examines the child and makes some prophecies involving the main plot, then says that the child's brother will live. Then she jumps into the lake, and she and the other Kol'ksu eat the baby.
Haghuf returns to the mother and tells her what Lezipina said. The other goblins leave the room. See, Le-ina's words were an order as well as a prophecy. The mother is related to everyone in her own caverns, so she needs an outsider to beget the next baby. Haghuf, as bearer of the prophecy, is that outsider. And they have to do it right now. So this woman, who just gave birth to a deformed child and gave it away knowing it was going to be eaten, gives in to "intense ardour" and "flung herself into Haghuf's embrace, moving with him in the resounding rhythm of the Dance of Creation."
- OW. Fucking OW. Holy fucking RIPPED VAGINAL TISSUES OW.
- But then, if I just gave my son away to be eaten by mermaids, I'd want a good hot shag from a total stranger, too.
- How the fuck is she going to get pregnant right after giving birth? Do goblins store sperm like bees?
- If you're truly in touch with the earth, you'll just know that cake isn't nutritious.
The cake is a lie.
- Count Anton is smooth, diplomatic, and utterly trustworthy. Everybody trusts him. Trust trust trust. You hear so much about trust re: Count Anton that the word stops sounding like English any more. He's also quite the brilliant one. For example, take a scene where he's just ordered pitchers of water to be brought up. A kitchen woman comes up to talk with him about something odd that's happening in the kitchens:
"By all means," Anton replied coolly, "do come in and tell me what the problem might be."
"Sir," began the woman, remembering to curtsey. "It ain't so much a problem as a curious situation. The water you ordered is being prepared and should be here shortly." She curtsied again, looking just a bit anxious. It was clear that she had more to say, but hadn't quite formulated the words yet.
"Surely sending water is not so curious? I think there is something else you want to tell me," the Count prompted her. Her eyes widened in surprise. Anton had to suppress a chuckle as he noted that she was completely unaware of her own body language and had jumped to the conclusion that he had read her mind, a common assumption among some of the simpler people. It added to his mystique, so he let such situations go unexplained. It didn't hurt to let them have just a little fear to augment their respect for him.
Count Anton impresses stupid people.
Incidentally, he and his inner circle do a lot of laughing at the peasantry. She doesn't understand me! Hee! He's so dim! Ha! We just drugged a bunch of 'em and made them think they were on a bender! HA HA HA! I think we're supposed to be impressed by how enlightened they are. They just come off as dicks.
- Meanwhile, the peasantry is straight out of a fifth-grader's essay on How Bad It Was to Be a Peasant in the Middle Ages. Woman-hating, ignorant, drunken, superstitious, easily fooled by Count Anton; and they're violent enough to think that when one of their fellows goes missing for a while and is discovered raving and semiconscious in the custody of a green knobbly creature, the green knobbly creature might pose a threat to them. (A natural assumption? Noooo, says the book, it's proof of humans' flawed nature.) I can see the point the author is trying to make. It would hit home if she acknowledged that humans do have a reason to be afraid--they really don't know anything useful about the goblins, they haven't been offered any way of repairing their ignorance since the goblins hide and the humans who know about them, like Anton, keep their knowledge secret, and the goblins' (entirely justified) self-defense maneuvers do look like a threat. But no, they're just stupid and really should know better.
Straw men are no way to build an argument.
Yes, I've descended into snark. Sorry. Dance of the Goblins is driving me mad. There are good bits, but they're embedded in acres of waffling and repetition and tragically sketchy worldbuilding. (Ask me about the signs sometime. AUGH, THE SIGNS! THE SIIIIIIIIIIIIGNS!) Characterization continues to be one-note except in the case of Talla, who's somewhat interesting but is currently lost in the depths of the world's dullest chase sequence.
Yet I will soldier on. For literature. For Science. For the good of humanity.
Jaq D. Hawkins replies
There are two kinds of people in this world: the good guys, and the stupid peasants. All the good guys speak alike, including a centuries-old goblin who lives underground and speaks Goblin and a young human aristocrat who lives in a castle and speaks English. All the stupid peasants speak in official Peasante Speeche.
Did you do any more than skim the book? This is just incorrect.
"Kolboingksu)" Where do you get off painting yourself an expert on pronunciation of something obviously above your reading level? It's fairly simple really, Kol-K-Su. I suppose you thought you were being funny. [So I added a link to 'splain it. --Issendai]
while carrying a dying child who does not merit a single mention over the course of the journey)
Another example of twisting. Anyone actually reading the story can see that the newborn is unresponsive and effectively dead meat, although still breathing at that point. It has been declared unviable and in the culture portrayed (and most people can see this easily), it is not considered in the way we(humans) would a dying baby. Most readers don't require the points of goblin culture to be explained to them in two syllables or less, they get it clearly from the story.
"Lezipina" You can pretend that you're not going out of your way to take the piss on pronouncing easy names, but don't expect to fool anyone. Le-ina is obvious. A third grader gets that one fine.
How the fuck is she going to get pregnant right after giving birth? Do goblins store sperm like bees?
I'll give you 'legitimate ignorance' on this one as you've never had children. If you had, your doctor would have explained to you that women tend to be very fertile right after birth. The hormones make the ovaries release eggs you see.
[Note from Issendai: It's true, the professor who taught my primate reproduction class in grad school wasn't a mother. If he was, maybe his doctor could have explained to him how birth retroactively triggers a process that takes at least thirteen days to result in ovulation. Or why women would become powerfully fertile immediately after giving birth--within hours, according to Dance of the Goblins--without the hormones screwing up lactation; and why they'd then relapse into normal postpartum infertility, and then return to normal fertility after their babies' rate of nursing slowed. Silly primate reproduction experts, not asking their OBGYNs the right questions!]
Count Anton is smooth, diplomatic, and utterly trustworthy. Everybody trusts him. Trust trust trust.
Really? What story were you reading? Not mine. Or maybe you missed all those chapters about the problems he had with people who failed to trust him. The bit where he got chased into the wrong goblin grotto by angry villagers was rather good if I do say so myself. Plus a goblin who trusts you doesn't throw you down a pit to get eaten.
Count Anton impresses stupid people.
Ignorance does not equal stupidity. Look at you for example. I don't think for one second that you're stupid, or fooled by your own inept arguments.
Incidentally, he and his inner circle do a lot of laughing at the peasantry.
Really? Care to cite examples? I seem to have missed a lot of what you say you've read.
While you're at it, can you go through and point out all these comma-splices that you claim I've done? As you're big on citing examples and all...
Meanwhile, the peasantry is straight out of a fifth-grader's essay on How Bad It Was to Be a Peasant in the Middle Ages. Woman-hating, ignorant, drunken, superstitious, easily fooled by Count Anton;
Again, completely incorrect. Latham would fit part of this, Jerrold the drunken part. Most of the citizenry are perfectly happy in a life that is more simple than the computer age. I've described skilled craftsmen and a nice stable society. You want to twist it into something different, but anyone who reads the book can see how full of it you are.
and they have the strange idea that when one of their fellows goes missing for a while and is discovered raving and semiconscious in the custody of a green knobbly creature, the green knobbly creature might pose a threat to them
Yes, this is how human nature works. A nice stable society with skilled craftsmen and a belief system much like basic Christianity see one of their people being pushed around by a green creature that looks like the demons described in their religious books (as was explained in the story). There is precedent for torches and pitchforks at that point in many classic works of fiction. Frankenstein comes to mind.
But you would twist the point into something derogatory if you could convince anyone. Who is assuming the peasants(readers of your site) are stupid here?