Rambling and other animals. But mostly rambling.

A Kudzu post on Kudzu stories.

We don’t really get properly complicated, sprawling stories in anime much. I suppose there is Legend of the Galactic Heroes, but I haven’t watched it and am saving it for a particularly severe bout of disillusionment with anime, if ever it happens. I hope it does, because otherwise I’ll never get to watch it, and will hoard the promise of watching it too long and end up dying on a bed of gold.

That’s a reference. Ganoes Paran says something similar to an unnamed Captain somewhere in the beginning of  the book Gardens of the Moon, which, since I have done a bad job of making clear what is post is to be about, is mostly what this post is to be about. Not an anime post.

One could say that Gardens is the absolute extreme, the peak, if you will, of the Tolkienan ethic of a self-contained world, which has a different underlying logic from our world, which the characters are products of, as well as producers of, a different set of cultures, a different context, different connotations to words, different rhetorical principles, theologies, the whole shebang. Gardens, and the Malazan world in all ten of the main books, is completely and utterly alien, and completely an utterly incomprehensible unless you’ve read it once. There’s nobody in the story to explain anything to you, minimal infodump, and the best/most confusing/worst part? What little information you do get straight up is presented in the, and I mean the, most unlikely place possible, namely deck readings.

There’s also the point about the sheer number of plotlines at work only halfway through the book. I’ll just list the major players out here, and group them in terms of interests.

-Bridgeburners, all of them
-Tattersail
-Hairlock the crazy bastard, bless his twisted, depraved soul
-Tayschrennn, Empress Laseen, and by extension Adjunct Lorn
-Raest
-High Fist Dujek and the 2nd Army
-The T’orrud Cabal of Darujhistan
-Anomander Rake
-Caladan Brood, Kallor, and the Barghast peoples, coupled together despite not really being allies
-Tool
-Oponn
-Paran Ganoes
-Ammannas, Cotillion and the Hounds.
-Lady Simtal
-Turban Orr and his wife, as well as his half of the Daru assembly
-Crokus Younghand
-That annoying bastard Kruppe
-Murrilio, Coll, Rallick Nom
-Circle Breaker
-Vorcan, and whatever subfactions there are under her
-The rooftop killers who, as of yet, remain unidentified
>sums up to twenty-one plotlines, most of which get resolved in one extremely explosive final act.

These are all factions, not characters, complete with backgrounds, desires, enough development for any kind of narrative about them to be unformable(by which I refer to characters who look back at their lives and realize that they make **** all sense. Making perfect sense of why they were what they were or did what they did appears impossible. I’m sure we’ve all gotten that feeling.), since the dramatis personae is far larger. The events per page in this book is nuts, and by now I’ve come to the rather sobering realization that I cannot completely explain this for the life of me. Its too twisted, its too complicated, has no focal point per se, is too subtle half the time and expects you to do a good deal of mental work yourself. It makes Baccano look simplistic in comparison, because so much of this is incomprehensible without the sheer amount of context that comes with the book, makes it difficult to read, and so rewarding once you figure everything out. Its alien. That’s just about the simplest I can make it. I haven’t really seen a more intricate and detailed fantasy world out there. There’s also an inordinate number of Chekov’s Gunmen.

Lets contrast this with another equally Kudzu storyline that I’ve been reading nowadays, The Wheel of Time. tWoT is equally implicit half the time, and while it really isn’t necessary to unravel everything to make sense of whats going on, since the story itself is rather simple, its the little details of the pattern, as the book loves to point out, that call for attention. For example,
(a)Rand buys red cloth to hide his sword with in Caemlyn because its cheaper,
(b) There are less supporters of the queen, who drape their swords in red, than opponents, who drape them in white
(c) Rand comes from far far far in the boonies.
See any relations? Well, there is one. More consumers for red cloth means that there are more people who want it, and generally less red cloth remaining. High demand, low supply, high price, so (a) is contingent on (b), and if (b) was the other way around, and (c) still held, Rand would have bought white, See any relations? Well, there is one. More consumers for red cloth means that there are more people who want it, and generally less red cloth remaining. High demand, low supply, high price, so (a) is contingent on (b), and if (b) was the other way around, and (c) still held, Rand would have bought white, and several important things wouldn’t have happened. How important? Spoilers important, is how.and several important things wouldn’t have happened. How important? Spoilers important, is how.It, like many other things in the series, is simply mentioned and never called undue attention to. Linkages are implicit, and require work to make.

So Kudzu plots work you, and work you hard. Carelessness and inattention are, depending on the book, not punished, or punished with the horrible realization that you can’t follow a thing going on. Is this important? Well, for fantasy, somewhat. There needs to be, for example, a way to let you audience know that they aren’t immersed properly to get them to pay attention, thereby magnifying the reward of understanding whats going on. Its basically the mystery novel principle, only this deals more in ‘whats going on’ than ‘what went down’. There’s also a degree of satisfaction to be attained from being able to follow a kudzu plot, which you’ll know if you’ve seen Baccano, or managed to follow Mawaru Penguindrum somehow.
This idea, I suppose, runs contrary to the general ‘fiction is for entertainment’, ‘if you had to try hard to enjoy it, its bad’, and ‘if it wasn’t said, it didn’t happen’ ethics that run through a good deal of the media-consuming community.

So…is it an achievement in itself? A sprawling story? Well, that largely depends on the reasons you have for consuming fiction in the first place. Its a rather pointless question, that. Also Hood’s roasted balls on a spit is cursing in the Malazan way fun.

Beru’s mercy, this is a mess.

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