Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mieville on Tolkein

Check out China Mieville on why Tolkein is awesome. Strange, I didn't think he liked Tolkein. Anyway, it's all good, but I particularly like the bit posted below. He hits the nail on the head that the partially described, vaguely nightmarish monsters are often the best.

3) The Watcher in the Water

Dude. That totally was cool. I mean, say what you like about him, Tolk gives good monster. Shelob, Smaug, the their astounding names, the fearful verve of their descriptions, their various undomesticated malevolence, these creatures are utterly embedded in our world-view. No one can write giant spiders except through Shelob: all dragons are sidekicks now. And so on.

But the thing about the Watcher in the Water is WTF? Here the technique of under-describing, withholding, comes startlingly to the fore, that other great technique for communicating balefulness. We know almost nothing about the many-limbed thing in the water outside Moria. Some think it's a giant squid: me, I say not, given that it lives in fresh water, has too many tentacles, and that those tentacles have fingers. Which squids don't have. But we know three things. It is tentacular; it is badass; and it is weird. And that uncertainty is what makes it rock.

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