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Chilltouch
12-10-2007, 18:53
I constantly hear people bickering about Goto, and saying that another novel has a much better interpretation of the Eldar, while other people still say that such a novel does it badly as well.

Just a brief question. In a genre where humans are the main characters, whether Homo Sapien or Astartes, how should the Eldar involved be pictured, whether it's as villians, side-characters or just cameos?

Marinox
12-10-2007, 19:28
enigmatic.

their actions, reasons, technology should be pertrayed as completely beyond our understanding.

so i suppose they should be all three. villans, side-characters and cameos.

Chilltouch
12-10-2007, 19:35
I meant what should their attitudes be per those roles.

MrBigMr
12-10-2007, 19:44
I'm just interested that if the main character is an Eldar, how can he/she view their own things as 'beyond one's understanding'. I hate it when people try and do something into mysterious by giving little to no information about it. How can it be so hard to see how Eldar live. They eat, they sleep, they poop, they put their catsuits on one leg at a time. If it cannot be done, it's merely the lack of imagenation by the writer.

I would realy be interested on reading a good novel about the Eldar.

FlashGordon
12-10-2007, 20:08
Could become a 300 pages about how a space flower smells. Not for an interesting read.

Luthien
12-10-2007, 20:21
Yeah, a full book about eldar would be kinda slow IMO, just look at Prophecy but a book where they feature in a more substantial role rather than the "generic alien who helps the human protagonist overcome impossible odds through technosorcery" would be good i think. like tolkien's elves they should be present but no overly intrefering

scarletsquig
12-10-2007, 20:26
Farseer was good... it was also really slow though. I personally liked the chapter-long description of a warp jump though, so all is well. Plus it had a genuinely sickening torture scene.. the line "the nadgers usually explode before I pull 'em off" is stuck in my memory. :)

There's nothing wrong with the eldar in BL fiction in general, it's just C.S. Goto that is wrong, in every possible way.

Idaan
12-10-2007, 21:18
I want them to be treated justly. Thus if they are main characters, they are protected by the "stormtrooper syndrome" just as the SM are in their own novels. They can achieve a vitory even over Imperium and its glory boys if they try to and if its part of the plot.

I want them to be competent as befits a 60mln-year-old race created to wage war and proficient with psychics. Thus no beating from Imperial farmboys.

I want them to be written about according to their established fluff. Thus Fulgrim doesn't kill the most skilled fighter in the game, Avatar of Khaine with a simple feint. Some more effort please. And when he does, he cannot punch through Avatar's brain because he doesn't have one. And it cannot get exhausted from battle. 20 feet animated statues never tire.

I don't want to listen to all this "too alien to describe" crap. They live, act, feel, express in the same way as humans, only on a heightened level. Their foreignity comes from the scale of their experiences, not the kind of it. Vide WD127, "Eldar psyche".

They can lose, They're tragic characters. But when they lose, they could at least do it with class. The "Silmarillion" is a history of losses of Elven race. They lose all the time, they die all the time. Hell, they don't even die meaningfully or heroically like Thingol beaten to death with jewelling hammers. But it's entertaining to read and it has greatness in it. It would make a nice change from Marines winning with no losses/dying to the last man on some hill waving banner.

I think it sums it up well.

Mister V
12-10-2007, 21:28
(Would anyone please point me to a thread, faq, or any other source that contains information about why people hate Goto's books so much? With examples and all. I'd be very grateful.)

On topic, I think the main thing that BL authors have to decide is whether to picture aliens purely from the human point of view (me no understand what ye smart eldar are doing? huh? purge the xenos) or actually try to develop them more. After reading the Eldar codex as well as lots of other materials I still get the impression that they have taken the first road while claiming to take the second or remaining "decidedly undecided"...
And I have to completely agree with MrBigMr.

Progena
12-10-2007, 22:49
I'd like to see a Deathwatch Marine with a Chainsword and Bolter jump a unit of Eldar Guardians... I just like the word 'Xenocide'. :p

Just kidding, the Shining Spear Aspect Warrior from Warrior Coven was my favourite character from that book. My favourite warrior cult from then on. The Eldar characters weren't horribly portrayed in that book, except when more Eldar got sacrificed than was agreed on. That was stupid.

Feor
12-10-2007, 23:33
It's simple to me, Eldar are essentially Vulcans. A psychicly powerful race that almost destroyed themselves by letting it get out of control and then split in two. One side letting their emotions continue to grow, but suppressing their psychic potential, the other suppressing their emotions but letting their Psychic powers stick around.

As such, they should be reserved, perhaps even a bit snobbish, but not boastful or proud. A little less pure logic than the Vulcans, but still tightly focused and controlled.

Marstfu
13-10-2007, 00:03
I liked 'em in Lord of the Night.

Steal ****, proceed to wait for 10.000 years, mind control inquisitor.
Just to avoid an attack.

Holy ****, these guys are serious.

Iracundus
13-10-2007, 04:13
GW's excuse of "The Eldar are alien and enigmatic hence we can't write anything about them in detail" really is a copout excuse. The Eldar are not enigmatic at all to each other (like myths of "inscrutable" Asians) and while they feel things to an intensity and obsessive level that humans cannot match, their motives are still understandable. Their actions only seem enigmatic or nonsensical when looking from the outside with insufficient information, but their actions should make perfect sense once one looks at it with the tools (such as rune casting) the Eldar have at their disposal.

The average human in 40K knows essentially nothing about any of the major alien races yet their Codices gives information about their background and history that hardly any human would know. If GW and BL rules of "human perspective only" were truly followed, then all the aliens would just be cardboard cutouts as nobody (including the reader) would know much about them.

That said, it would be hard for GW's stable of writers to do a good job with the Eldar. They fall back far too often to the same tired old phrases and bits of background we already know from the Codex, accompanied with sprinkling of "complex", "elegant", "sophisticated" when describing any aspect of the Eldar, their culture or technology.

The length of BL novellas is another issue that makes it difficult to convey the Eldar. The hardest is the patina of age and the enormity of their accumulated history and culture. Their lifestyle is complicated and ritualized from an immense cultural legacy, even if they've lost a lot of that themselves. It's hard to show that to a reader, and simply telling that to them doesn't have impact. Take for example a real world case such as Chinese history. Yes, it's long and incredibly detailed and is embedded in the culture and language. How detailed? It's difficult to grasp on an emotional or intuitive scale until you actually start learning more and being immersed in the details and language. That same process though is difficult to do in BL books which are focused more upon comic book action rather than detailed character or background development. It also takes a skilled writer to pull off without it coming off as an endless series of Eldar names of people doing things in Eldar named places that bores the reader.

The Eldar are living and dreaming echoes of a bygone era, and if portrayed well their impact should be something like an Atlantean vision or a mirage out of the desert. The impact of the temples at Luxor or Karnak or the statues of Ramesses II should be what the writer aims for. Given the BL's priorities and the writers at their disposal, I find it difficult to believe they can pull this off.

elvinltl
13-10-2007, 05:21
I don't know why but 40k Books based on Dawn of War always illustrate Half-Dead Farseers lying at the Mercy of Librarians in Litanies. Sounds like a Damsel in Distress... Worst still the silly wrecked Eldar SpaceShips floating about.

Like Elves, Eldar should Dazzle the readers with their spells, agility and intelligence and yet display their flaw of being only Toughness 3. The Eldar should be written as Saviour races descending from the heavens to help people in Dire circumstances against Necrons to their advantage.

And i always though Eldar love to watch how races start fighting each other till the point of exhaustion before they enter to finish them off like spectators watching foolish Gladiators. Right now they always seem to take the initiative only to sustain immerse losses.

Green-is-best
13-10-2007, 05:36
While I'm not crazy about the way Eldar are portrayed in BL writing, I think its generally on the right track. Doing proper justice to a terrestrial non-human mind in writing is extremely difficult, writing a good alien intelligence is probably damn near impossible. How do you describe the devotion of a firewarrior to his Sept and the Greater Good, the blood rage of an Ork, or the fear that an Eldar has of Slaneesh? Do reduce it to an exaggeration of human conceptions of the same emotions, destroying its "alien-ness" in the process? Or, do you try to describe alien emotion in vaguries and hope that lack of detail will pass for foreignness? I don't have an answer, but I don't think either of those are any good.

Given that few BL writers can create a compelling human emotional landscape, I'd rather they keep doing what they're doing and not focus on aliens.

Remember the old adage: "write what you know!"

FlashGordon
13-10-2007, 09:35
I say again, a Eldar story would become so dull. Because they think too much about little things that does not mean ****. If they Are about to drink some water they would probably make poems about it before they drink it.

Iracundus
13-10-2007, 09:39
Tau devotion to Sept and Greater Good = patriotism and nationalism
Blood rage of Ork = berserker rage and/or lust for a scrap, just like berserkers or football hooligans

Eldar fear of Slaanesh = fear of the Devil/Satan in a universe where you know and have proof of the existence of such.

The aliens of 40K have never been meant to be so alien we can't comprehend them. There are plenty of players that play and empathize with their alien armies. To say they are alien and therefore we can't understand them is just an excuse to avoid thinking further in depth about them.

Bregalad
13-10-2007, 09:49
I say again, a Eldar story would become so dull. Because they think too much about little things that does not mean ****. If they Are about to drink some water they would probably make poems about it before they drink it.

You mean as dull and boring as Tolkien and the majority of Fantasy novels? ;)
And if Eldar are so beyond understanding, why does BL publish Wood Elf and High Elf novels?
There have even been Eldar novels before, "Shadow Point" being the best so far IMHO, followed by "Farseer". So it is possible to do this race justice!

Biggest thread on Goto:
http://warseer.com/forums/40k-background/54303-cs-goto-hates-eldar.html

Thread where Goto promises to reconsider Eldar portrayal:
http://warseer.com/forums/40k-background/101795-new-hope-for-the-eldar-in-the-bl.html

Green-is-best
13-10-2007, 10:51
Tau devotion to Sept and Greater Good = patriotism and nationalism
Blood rage of Ork = berserker rage and/or lust for a scrap, just like berserkers or football hooligans

Eldar fear of Slaanesh = fear of the Devil/Satan in a universe where you know and have proof of the existence of such.

The aliens of 40K have never been meant to be so alien we can't comprehend them. There are plenty of players that play and empathize with their alien armies. To say they are alien and therefore we can't understand them is just an excuse to avoid thinking further in depth about them.

If their emotions are identical to ours, what is the point of making them alien? Good writing is about exploring emotional territory that is personally uncharted or challenging. If alien emotions are close enough to ours that we can properly empathize with them, then they simply become distorted reflections of human beings, and thus, no longer aliens.

Green-is-best
13-10-2007, 10:52
You mean as dull and boring as Tolkien and the majority of Fantasy novels? ;)


....Yeah, exactly like that....

I know it's heresy, but I thought the Lord of the Rings was actually a much better film than book. :angel:

Lord Merlin
13-10-2007, 10:56
(Would anyone please point me to a thread, faq, or any other source that contains information about why people hate Goto's books so much? With examples and all. I'd be very grateful.)


Once you read any Abnett Goto just sucks in comparison. In my opinion he's just a bad writer. All of his books are so convoluted.

Rockerfella
13-10-2007, 11:36
For me, its more that Goto's characters (marine specifically) are shallow, underdeveloped and seemingly invincible.

The marines portrayed in the heresy books are a differen't kettle of fish, and excude a humanity even though they're Astartes. Make sense?

Goto's Eldar are eithe rstupidly shallow, stupid, or utterly incompitent in their nature. Eldrad in Fulgrim again was a differen't kettle of fish.

Cheers!

MrBigMr
13-10-2007, 13:14
I have to agree with Rockerfella, although I haven't read any Goto text on the Eldar (apart from few quotes here and there). My main beef is that I found the style to be pretty uninspiring. But bottled water isn't very inspiring either and it still sells, so it seems it's not the problem.

Kage2020
13-10-2007, 16:52
Unfortunately, the material on the Eldar is so spartan that it is all but impossible for the fan to not be able to insert their own interpretations. This means that in the reading of any novel, preferences are going to shade in. Consider, for example, that Bregelad mentions Shadow Point and Farseer as good examples of writing on the Eldar. In my own mind, no novel has truly gotten the Eldar right, and this is the case with these two books.

(I find the Shadow Point Eldar to be somewhat contrived, most particularly the "Madonna Vogue" approach to body language communication, though I do like the non-automaton Avatar and the transition of Aspect Warrior to Exarch. Similarly, I find Farseer to be very bland, though the descriptions of Belial IV are interesting.)

As I read through the thread, I find myself echoing some of the comments of Iracundus. The idea that Eldar are, or should, be "too alien to write about" is a massive cop-out. After all, sci-fi and fantasy authors have been successfully writing from the perspectives of aliens for years, and many of them actually get it right. :D

What is missing from the Eldar is information. Sure, we have some basic information on the Path, but we know next to nothing about their actual culture beyond quick references to the supposed importance of mythology, the fact that it is "restrictive," etc. Is it that surprising that it is difficult to write from the Eldar perspective, then? After all, there is no Eldar perspective -- it hasn't been written about. Everything is portrayed as an exception to every other bit of information, so even what we do have lacks even a modicum of coherence.

Until we have more information - and, no, I don't consider Xenology to be information ;) - there's little more that we can expect. Is GW likely to produce this? Probably not. Thus it is up to the fans to create their own interpretation and let people know about it. Yet despite this, how many interpretations of the Eldar are out there on the 'Net for people to see?

Kage

redbaron998
13-10-2007, 17:04
I hated the 2nd and 3rd BL DOW novels. Eldar Dark Reapers risking the souls of all thier brethern in hope of taking them back to Altansar (1. at the time everyone still thought it was lost, 2. Only the Exarchs of the Dark Reapers would potentially unstablalize the (forgot word, eldar spirit storehouse) but they stay in thier armour anyways.)

No Eldar is going to go around in space virually unsupported carring a few thousand Eldar souls, just wouldnt happen.

Green-is-best
13-10-2007, 17:40
As I read through the thread, I find myself echoing some of the comments of Iracundus. The idea that Eldar are, or should, be "too alien to write about" is a massive cop-out. After all, sci-fi and fantasy authors have been successfully writing from the perspectives of aliens for years, and many of them actually get it right. :D


Hmmm... what would you recommend for those of us who have never read a good alien? In every sci-fi or fantasy novel I've come across, non-human intelligences are either so similar to humans that the distinction in species is basically meaningless, like the Drow in Salvatore's stuff, or are just given inscrutible motivations, like Tolkien's elves. Honestly, the best "alien" I've come across is Valentine Michael Smith in Stranger in a Strange Land, and that's obviously problematic.

Adra
13-10-2007, 17:49
None of the decent eldar books tell us the ful story but thats ok...they all tell us a little bit and slowly the backstory is built. Goto just isnt a great writer and seems to see the Eldar very differently from most other people. i think hes taken the grim darkness bit a bit far.

Here is a good idea for a story. Come on Abbnett. Eldar citizen gets called up for guardian detail. There...now u get a bit of eldar life and then oh no...eldar war. We would see what an eldar life is like and look into their hopes and fears. Im sick of just cos they are the eldar they always know better...no....your off to war my little artist friend...he would pap himself....but in a very different way to humanity. ooo interesting stuff.

Progena
13-10-2007, 18:30
Erm, I seem to remember a short-story published in WD's coverage (ie. really really short) of the Eye of Terror Campaign detailing a meeting between Eldrad and Creed (me thinks). I was new to 40k back then and it's been a long time since I read it, but I remember I liked it very much. It influenced my view on Eldar as impossible to comprehend for humans.

Kage2020
13-10-2007, 18:51
Hmmm... what would you recommend for those of us who have never read a good alien?
Well, to be fair it's always going to be an interpretation/suspension of disbelief situation. If you're never encountered a "good alien" in a novel, then the chances are that I could not point you towards one. I have, however, encountered numerous "aliens" that worked well within the context of a given story, whether that is Greg Bear's work, that of CJ Cherryh or whomever. For me, that is.

Kage

MrBigMr
13-10-2007, 19:59
Hmmm... what would you recommend for those of us who have never read a good alien?
You've read Stranger in a Strange Land and say you've never read a good alien novel?


In every sci-fi or fantasy novel I've come across, non-human intelligences are either so similar to humans that the distinction in species is basically meaningless, like the Drow in Salvatore's stuff, or are just given inscrutible motivations, like Tolkien's elves.
How alien can an alien be? At least in 40K, which we are talking about, not in general. 'You can't understand aliens' is just a cheap way for GW to put some distance to Fantasy Battle. What ever they do, Eldar are just Space Elves through and through, nothing more.

When an alien is humanoid in shape, mammal, aware of himself and his surroundings, etc. I have a hard time believing they would so different in mind as well. It's like identical twins. When both have the same hands, their writing is similar. With same brains, they both fancy same things. Both would find similar clothes ideal.

The Eldar make and use things you and I can recognise. Pistol grips on guns, art, bladed swords, etc. When you see such things, you can pretty much guess what they are.

And if core emotions in the 40K universe were so different, how could the Chaos gods ever feed on them? Human, Kroot and Eldar emotions all fuel them.

As for the Eldar having heightened senses, I doubt that causes so much difference in them. Are people who have been blind from birth any different us? Eldar just 'see' better than us.


The Nicassar, Vespid, Tyranids, hell, even Kroot are faaar more alien than the Eldar. But no, we have to argue about the Eldar...

And when it comes down to aliens, what's the difference when writing about an alien running across a battlefield and a human running across a battlefield? The actions are still the same. When an alien falls in love, how is it different from human love.

It's like it says in Matrix: "Love is just a word, what matters is the connection the word implies." Which brings us to the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein. When we talk about something, those words paint a picture in our brain. So when we hear a word we don't know of, we need to put it into context, compare it to other words to paint that picture in our head.

It's like in Stranger in a Strange Land, where you have to speak like a Martian to understand the Martian mindset. When you understand a language, you understand all that comes with it. How different languages have different ways of picting things.

But that doesn't mean that we can't use our own language to pict the things in another language. So while to an alien something is something, with enough human words and expressions, you can paint the same picture the alien has in his/her mind.

Ok?


Honestly, the best "alien" I've come across is Valentine Michael Smith in Stranger in a Strange Land, and that's obviously problematic.
I once read a book from the PoV of a grizzly bear, but I can't remember the name of it for the life of me. It was good.

Kage2020
13-10-2007, 21:12
How alien can an alien be? ... What ever they do, Eldar are just Space Elves through and through, nothing more.
This just gives us a common basis, surely, not that elves could not be considered alien? Otherwise we go too far down the "humans with pointy ears" approach. Surely it's a case of believable obfuscation? It's not about being "truly alien," but about being "believable aliens."


When an alien is humanoid in shape, mammal, aware of himself and his surroundings, etc. I have a hard time believing they would so different in mind as well.
Other than the problem with the whole "mammal" category, you can get into some interesting discussions about this, i.e. phenomenological or individualist approaches to society (at least as filtered through the archaeological lens).


It's like identical twins. When both have the same hands, their writing is similar. With same brains, they both fancy same things. Both would find similar clothes ideal.
For a fictional reference you might want to check out Cyteen (http://www.amazon.com/Cyteen-C-J-Cherryh/dp/0446671274/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-2844030-8328060?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1192309691&sr=1-1). It's just a variation of the "nature versus nurture" argument, but quite an interesting one.


The Eldar make and use things you and I can recognise. Pistol grips on guns, art, bladed swords, etc. When you see such things, you can pretty much guess what they are.
This comes back once more to archaeology and the premise of "uniformitarianism." In terms of artefacts, this comes down to the fact that the observer interprets the function of an artefact based upon familiarity. The common example is the term "hand-axe." Sure, it looks like an axe, but that doesn't preclude alternative uses.


And if core emotions in the 40K universe were so different, how could the Chaos gods ever feed on them?
This, of course, doesn't preclude the idea that while the "essence" of the emotion feeds the Ruinous Powers, the races experience everything in their own way.

(I personally do not favour the idea that Eldar emotions are the same as humans, just emphasised.)


The Nicassar, Vespid, Tyranids, hell, even Kroot are faaar more alien than the Eldar. But no, we have to argue about the Eldar...
And, of course, there is absolutely no reason that a race which has little physiological similarity to humanity could not be closer to humans than the eldaEldar with all their similarity.


But that doesn't mean that we can't use our own language to pict the things in another language. So while to an alien something is something, with enough human words and expressions, you can paint the same picture the alien has in his/her mind.

Ok?
Cludgey, but I agree with this. ;)


Kage

Green-is-best
13-10-2007, 21:38
You've read Stranger in a Strange Land and say you've never read a good alien novel?

Well, he's not really an alien...



How alien can an alien be? At least in 40K, which we are talking about, not in general. 'You can't understand aliens' is just a cheap way for GW to put some distance to Fantasy Battle. What ever they do, Eldar are just Space Elves through and through, nothing more.

When an alien is humanoid in shape, mammal, aware of himself and his surroundings, etc. I have a hard time believing they would so different in mind as well. It's like identical twins. When both have the same hands, their writing is similar. With same brains, they both fancy same things. Both would find similar clothes ideal.

The Eldar make and use things you and I can recognise. Pistol grips on guns, art, bladed swords, etc. When you see such things, you can pretty much guess what they are.

And if core emotions in the 40K universe were so different, how could the Chaos gods ever feed on them? Human, Kroot and Eldar emotions all fuel them.

I guess that's part of my point. An Eldar like that is just a human with pointy ears and a better sense of balance. I think a good writer could take the physical similarities between Eldar and humans and use that as a tool to heighten their alien-ness. Sitting in a room and talking to an Eldar should be an unsettling experience for an untrained human. When you sit across from them, you see eye to eye, yet the way they make eye contact isn't influenced by primate evolution. Perhaps they stare for longer than we do, look away at inappropriate times, or they don't blink at the same intervals. The facial expressions that they use for non-verbal communication may be completely different from ours. They may smile when sad or grimace when happy. Perhaps they even use facial movements so subtle that only our sub-conscious can detect them. However, all this foreignness is wrapped up in a package that appears outwardly human. I think that experience would make a lot of people very uncomfortable.



The Nicassar, Vespid, Tyranids, hell, even Kroot are faaar more alien than the Eldar. But no, we have to argue about the Eldar...

To be fair, I did bring up Orks and Tau as well. ;)



And when it comes down to aliens, what's the difference when writing about an alien running across a battlefield and a human running across a battlefield? The actions are still the same. When an alien falls in love, how is it different from human love.

It's like it says in Matrix: "Love is just a word, what matters is the connection the word implies." Which brings us to the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein. When we talk about something, those words paint a picture in our brain. So when we hear a word we don't know of, we need to put it into context, compare it to other words to paint that picture in our head.

Is it though? Despite all the myriad variation in mammalian species on our own planet, we all come from the same primordial goo and are ultimately wired similarly. So a dog and a human feel a pack bond in a similar way, which is what allows us to empathize with our dogs. If we look at species that are similar to ours (pack hunter/breeders with organized social systems) than the notion of cross species understanding seems relatively straight forward. However, take an octopus, which seems to think using its whole nervous system, rather than with a brain. Some biologists are beginning to believe that a cephalopod's mode of perception is fundamentally different from mammalian intelligence. What if they were as smart as a dog or a horse? Would they have emotions that are recognizable to humans? Would they form bonds with non-cephalopod intelligences? I don't know.

Now think of how different the product of an alien evolutionary process might perceive reality. Sure, they might experience love like we do, but they might not. Think about Tyranids. What we see as making war they see as getting dinner. That type of voracious, insatiable hunger is completely outside of the human, or even mammalian, experience.

It's not that I don't think its possible to write a good alien, I just don't think the anybody at the Black Library is capable of doing that. I think its really territory best left to great writers like Heinlein.



It's like in Stranger in a Strange Land, where you have to speak like a Martian to understand the Martian mindset. When you understand a language, you understand all that comes with it. How different languages have different ways of picting things.

Think how impossibly alien the Martian mindset would be without Valentine Michael Smith as an intermediate between the two species!



I once read a book from the PoV of a grizzly bear, but I can't remember the name of it for the life of me. It was good.

Lemme know if you remember it, sounds like an interesting read.

MrBigMr
13-10-2007, 21:49
This just gives us a common basis, surely, not that elves could not be considered alien? Otherwise we go too far down the "humans with pointy ears" approach. Surely it's a case of believable obfuscation? It's not about being "truly alien," but about being "believable aliens."
But so far I haven't heard anyone say "show me a good fantasy novel on elves." Why do sci-fi races get to be so different from fantasy races. They're all equally make-belief.

People always like to think that something is so different, but the scary truth is that if we ever encounter aliens, they might be more human than we can believe. Hundreds of years ago people were told amazing stories of distant cultures, how weird and totally different they were. Yet the truth is that those people were just the same as the ones they were told about. Nothing weird there.


This comes back once more to archaeology and the premise of "uniformitarianism." In terms of artefacts, this comes down to the fact that the observer interprets the function of an artefact based upon familiarity. The common example is the term "hand-axe." Sure, it looks like an axe, but that doesn't preclude alternative uses.
You trying to say an Eldar sword or shuriken catapult isn't what we think it is?


(I personally do not favour the idea that Eldar emotions are the same as humans, just emphasised.)
They're afraid of death, they exercise carnal lust (and not always with other Eldar), some are more individual than others, etc. All I've read about them don't give any different view on them. The culture is different, but I doubt a human who has lived his whole life among Eldar would have any problems with the way things are over there.


And, of course, there is absolutely no reason that a race which has little physiological similarity to humanity could not be closer to humans than the eldaEldar with all their similarity.
Right, but when humans and Eldar are similar in physiology, they've developed to use that physiology the same way and in such developed in a similar manner. Like how an octopus works very differently from a cat, but a cheetah doesn't.

Green-is-best
13-10-2007, 21:53
But so far I haven't heard anyone say "show me a good fantasy novel on elves." Why do sci-fi races get to be so different from fantasy races. They're all equally make-belief.

I feel that way. Elves in like 95% of the books I've read are either just agile humans that can see in the dark and live a really long time, or they're mysterious super-beings whose motivations are opaque.

In the words of Homer...."booooooooring."

MrBigMr
13-10-2007, 22:27
Well, he's not really an alien...
No, but close.


I think that experience would make a lot of people very uncomfortable.
Unless you're into that kind of a think, of course.


To be fair, I did bring up Orks and Tau as well. ;)
Orks aren't realy that alien (no alien that talks like a chimneysweeper is) and to me the Tau are propably the closest race to humans. Both are evolved from mammals, etc. And while the Tau society is different, it's not like every Tau is an utilitarian. It's a system of goverment forced upon them. Take it away and they're pretty primitive like we all.


Is it though? Despite all the myriad variation in mammalian species on our own planet, we all come from the same primordial goo and are ultimately wired similarly. So a dog and a human feel a pack bond in a similar way, which is what allows us to empathize with our dogs. If we look at species that are similar to ours (pack hunter/breeders with organized social systems) than the notion of cross species understanding seems relatively straight forward.
Well, taken that you can mix and match DNA (and the fact they all have DNA) all over the 40K universe ('Nids, Kroot, half-Eldar, etc.), all the species in it come from the same primordial goo. Thus all the building blocks are the same, which already brings us closer to each other.

But the Eldar were engineered, which does make them a sort of wild card in evolutionary behavior. But I doubt the Old Ones just farted the DNA, so they could have taken an excisting race and develope the Eldar from that (wasn't it said somewhere that the Eldar are descendants of some alien cats?)

But they have a long history and plenty of time to develope a working way of life. And taken that their gods are a manifestation of their psyche (right?), the Eldar do have somewhat down to earth understanding of life and such.

Coming back to the "interview with an Eldar" bit, Eldar most likely study other races and through that find a way to behave among them. Taken their more aware sense of being, they might be able to control those expressions far better and use them to steer the converstion one way or another. Wouldn't put it past the sneaky bastards.


However, take an octopus, which seems to think using its whole nervous system, rather than with a brain. Some biologists are beginning to believe that a cephalopod's mode of perception is fundamentally different from mammalian intelligence.
That is true and I admit that, but we're still talking about the Eldar here. Or are you saying their ears have a mind of their own?


Now think of how different the product of an alien evolutionary process might perceive reality. Sure, they might experience love like we do, but they might not.
Define love. We all know what it means, but how do you put it into words? You can't realy. You can give that textbook mumbo jumbo, but it's far from the real thing. You could spend a while library to explain it and still fall short. But you say 'love' and everyone understands what you are talking about. Understand in their own way, but the idea is the same even if the feeling is personal to each and everyone.


Think about Tyranids. What we see as making war they see as getting dinner. That type of voracious, insatiable hunger is completely outside of the human, or even mammalian, experience.
You're thinking too big. Imagine a single cell organism that just lives to keep itself alive. Then just bump it up to astronomical size. The 'Nids are like a single massive organism that still funtion on the basic evolutionary level of staying alive by any means necessary. Same things that make us eat, sleep and screw.


It's not that I don't think its possible to write a good alien, I just don't think the anybody at the Black Library is capable of doing that. I think its really territory best left to great writers like Heinlein.
Life ain't fare. If you don't like what BL puts out, start writing your own stuff. That's what I do. I only read BL books for some insite into various aspects of the universe, rather than as actual novels. So far I've downed Daemon World and I have Dark Adeptus, Fire Warrior and Storm of Iron in the mail.


Think how impossibly alien the Martian mindset would be without Valentine Michael Smith as an intermediate between the two species!
But there was no go-between for him. So if he could learn it, so could others as well.

MrBigMr
13-10-2007, 22:38
In the words of Homer...."booooooooring."
There you go again with those negative wibes, man. Like I said, if you don't like the presentation of non-humans in fiction, start writing your own. Not just "my version of elves/aliens", but a whole new creatures. I do it. Such as a whole universe I wrote (took me about 2 years to do it) for the use in larps (third part coming next spring), but I've though about writing few stories fitted into the universe and see what happens.

Green-is-best
13-10-2007, 23:32
There you go again with those negative wibes, man. Like I said, if you don't like the presentation of non-humans in fiction, start writing your own. Not just "my version of elves/aliens", but a whole new creatures. I do it. Such as a whole universe I wrote (took me about 2 years to do it) for the use in larps (third part coming next spring), but I've though about writing few stories fitted into the universe and see what happens.

Negative vibes? :( I thought I was being constructive. :cries:

Bregalad
14-10-2007, 00:30
I think a good writer could take the physical similarities between Eldar and humans and use that as a tool to heighten their alien-ness. Sitting in a room and talking to an Eldar should be an unsettling experience for an untrained human. When you sit across from them, you see eye to eye, yet the way they make eye contact isn't influenced by primate evolution. Perhaps they stare for longer than we do, look away at inappropriate times, or they don't blink at the same intervals. The facial expressions that they use for non-verbal communication may be completely different from ours. They may smile when sad or grimace when happy. Perhaps they even use facial movements so subtle that only our sub-conscious can detect them. However, all this foreignness is wrapped up in a package that appears outwardly human. I think that experience would make a lot of people very uncomfortable.

You mean they are as alien as ... women?? ;)

Iracundus
14-10-2007, 00:46
Take the series The Prince of Nothing if you want to get an example of what subtle facial and body reading might be.

Anyway, to address several points. To MrBigMr, Eldar are not "alien cats". Once again that is a bit of distorted fan speculation that seems to have been mistaken for truth by some people. It was also the most tenuous of speculations based on flawed reasoning, basically along the lines of "cats are graceful and lithe, and so are Eldar, therefore Eldar must be descended from cats."

Secondly, the Eldar have already been described in GW background to have many of the same emotions and feelings of humans, just to a heightened degree. They feel fear of death, and they feel wanderlust. They mourn their dead, and they feel love. See the very old WD about a Banshee who has her male friend chosen to be the Young King for the Avatar ceremony for what I'm referring to. The very fact there was at one point in time diplomatic relations with Alaitoc, also means the Eldar are not alien to the point of incomprhensibility.

The Eldar have always been "Space Elf" in their original conception, and like Tolkien's Elves they are not that alien. That however isn't necessarily a flaw as Tolkien's Elf template was meant from the beginning to be a reflection of humanity. There are races like the Tyranids that are meant to be more alien.

Eisen
14-10-2007, 00:56
Not strictly on-topic, but the bear book was probably "Shardik" by Richard Adams, same guy who did "Watership Down" - which is another excellent read for anyone who wants the alien perspective. It's from the POV of rabbits, for crying out loud, and even features a precognitive rabbit. I may have the name wrong, but I am dead certain about the author.

stormblade
14-10-2007, 06:26
You mean they are as alien as ... women?? ;)

- That's pretty damn alien:D

On topic: I don't think that describing the alien mind would be so difficult, just try not to input any human emotions into it, stop thinking logically and just add the first th... hey a pancake!!!!

Something like that.

MrBigMr
14-10-2007, 08:57
Not strictly on-topic, but the bear book was probably "Shardik" by Richard Adams, same guy who did "Watership Down" - which is another excellent read for anyone who wants the alien perspective. It's from the POV of rabbits, for crying out loud, and even features a precognitive rabbit. I may have the name wrong, but I am dead certain about the author.
No, I don't think it was Shardik. It was a normal grizzly in our everyday world (propably around the 20th century) and only from the bear's PoV. It's so long since I read it. Can't remember much about it, but it was a good read. I do remember that at one point the bear stepped on a bear trap.

And I can't believe I forgor Watership Down. It's a nice read too. Nay, a great read.


Anyway, to address several points. To MrBigMr, Eldar are not "alien cats". Once again that is a bit of distorted fan speculation that seems to have been mistaken for truth by some people. It was also the most tenuous of speculations based on flawed reasoning, basically along the lines of "cats are graceful and lithe, and so are Eldar, therefore Eldar must be descended from cats."
No, I never thought it like that. I just thought there had been some RT era fluff on the subject, but if not, then no harm done (unless you're now traumatized for life). But didn't the Old Ones manipulate races rather than just pop them from thin air. Plant stuff on worlds and see what happens. So the Eldar could have had a perfectly normal evolution just with little 'guiding' by the Old Ones.


Secondly, the Eldar have already been described in GW background to have many of the same emotions and feelings of humans, just to a heightened degree. They feel fear of death, and they feel wanderlust. They mourn their dead, and they feel love. See the very old WD about a Banshee who has her male friend chosen to be the Young King for the Avatar ceremony for what I'm referring to. The very fact there was at one point in time diplomatic relations with Alaitoc, also means the Eldar are not alien to the point of incomprhensibility.

The Eldar have always been "Space Elf" in their original conception, and like Tolkien's Elves they are not that alien. That however isn't necessarily a flaw as Tolkien's Elf template was meant from the beginning to be a reflection of humanity. There are races like the Tyranids that are meant to be more alien.
Yeah, what he said. Is it possible those who want more, are asking too much? As far as GW is concerned, maybe the Eldar are just as alien as they have hoped for. The rest is just silly marketing, trying to hide the fact that they're just space elves.


You mean they are as alien as ... women?? ;)
Hey, come on now, lets not over do it. 'Alien', not 'outright weird'.

Kage2020
14-10-2007, 13:26
But so far I haven't heard anyone say "show me a good fantasy novel on elves." Why do sci-fi races get to be so different from fantasy races. They're all equally make-belief.
Indeed. The degree of suspension of disbelief has always seemed to be different. This also manifests, in my experience, with RPG. People will accept a given "thing" more readily if it is in a fantasy RPG than they would with a sci-fi RPG (e.g. players would readily follow the "yellow plot road" ['your magic sword was stolen'] in a fantasy game, but when presented with the same in a sci-fi ['your starship was stolen'] the response would be, "Yeah, but what about insurance? Surely we've got insurance?" ;))

Somewhat amusingly, I would once again point out the "40kFantasy" premise, which represents the 40k universe in the "medieval fantasy" trappings ala Tolkien and derivatives. (It's only a premise document at the moment, if you fancied looking it up.) Any time that I've had difficulty believing something in the standard 40k universe, when I've held it against the standard of 40KFantasy the actions of characters, or the set-up of a given organisation, tends to make more (contextual) sense. The really nitty-gritty question is whether this is a manifestation of the above discrepancy between sci-fi and fantasy suspension of disbelief (on my behalf, that is), or whether it is the authors' ingrained tendency to write from a fantasy standpoint and to throw in some "far future" gadgets, gimmicks and, otherwise, colour and flavour.


People always like to think that something is so different, but the scary truth is that if we ever encounter aliens, they might be more human than we can believe.
How remarkably anthropological of you, MrBigMr. In spirit, I believe that I agree with this point. It is always possible to describe a culture, their psychology, etc., but the experience is ever going to be more than the description. (It's like Descartes, baby, yeah! ;))

In the case of writing about the Eldar, if you have a description of the various parts - more information on their culture, their psychology, their technology, etc., or basically more information - you can begin to construct a coherent interpretation. How alien would that be? Well, as alien to the reader as they are willing to believe. At the moment, though, BL Eldar come off as... window dressing; their actions presented as "alien" merely because no information is provided upon which to offer a substantial framework of interpretation.

Of course, that seems to be what GW wants. Unfortunately, when it comes down to the BL novels it seems that they're throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as it were.


You trying to say an Eldar sword or shuriken catapult isn't what we think it is?
Well, kinda. Of course, the examples that you provide make the argument sound ludicrous, but the over-arching premise is applicable. That is, looking at a given cultural artefact from the "outside" tends to mean that function, and sometimes importance, will be imposed from the observing culture, rather than the producing culture. Hence the "stone axe" analogy, i.e. we call it that because, for the most part, its shape is remarkably similar to what we would call an axe. That doesn't mean it was an axe, nor that it was used in a similar fashion as to how "we" would use an axe. It just means that the associations that "we" (the observers) draw make it for us an axe. (The argument breaks down slightly when you consider plant residue analysis on these devices, but there we go.)

As another random example, the cultural import of an artefact that might transcend its apparent function might be seen in the votive deposits of North Western Europe. Or the burial of rare, "prestige" items in the graves of "elites." Is it an act of worship, or one of politics, or both, or something else entirely?


They're afraid of death, they exercise carnal lust (and not always with other Eldar), some are more individual than others, etc.
In terms of an ethnography, though, you're mapping your own interpretations onto the Eldar based upon the act, rather than the import or nature of that act to the Eldar themselves. You can see the same thing being performed in some of the earliest ethnographies (e.g. Caesar's "Gallic War") and, to be fair, it's not unreasonable in certain cases since it offers the observer a means of ascribing their own understanding on a given situation even if that is not one that would be significant to the observed.

Of course, this becomes mental masturbation to a point since, after all, we can do exactly the same thing with the 40k humans. I do believe that Eldar have the equivalents of love, hate, fear, etc. but find the generic statement about the degree to which the experience emotions to be that useful since it perpetuates the "humans with pointy ears" syndrome, rather than placing it in a 'reasonable' context.

(And the "afraid of death" thing is hokum at the best of times... depending on your preference and interpretation, of course.)


The culture is different, but I doubt a human who has lived his whole life among Eldar would have any problems with the way things are over there.
For some reason, I cannot help but think of the film, The Last Samurai.


...and to me the Tau are propably the closest race to humans. Both are evolved from mammals, etc.
Is it just about the physiology, for you?


If you don't like what BL puts out, start writing your own stuff.
I believe in the context of this thread it's more about how to identify what could be improved with BL rather than "voting with your feet/wallet."


I think a good writer could take the physical similarities between Eldar and humans and use that as a tool to heighten their alien-ness.
Now that's something I could agree with and, indeed, ties into some of the comments that I make, above.

Kage

MrBigMr
14-10-2007, 15:12
The really nitty-gritty question is whether this is a manifestation of the above discrepancy between sci-fi and fantasy suspension of disbelief (on my behalf, that is), or whether it is the authors' ingrained tendency to write from a fantasy standpoint and to throw in some "far future" gadgets, gimmicks and, otherwise, colour and flavour.
I think it's a symbiotic relationship. GW is the one who pulls the strings, so if they didn't agree with the 40KFantasy styte, they could do something about it.


How remarkably anthropological of you, MrBigMr. In spirit, I believe that I agree with this point. It is always possible to describe a culture, their psychology, etc., but the experience is ever going to be more than the description. (It's like Descartes, baby, yeah! ;))
Taken that even the dinosaurs were evolving towards humanoid form, so if it's happened twice on two different species, why couldn't evolution favor humanoids elsewhere as well?


In the case of writing about the Eldar, if you have a description of the various parts - more information on their culture, their psychology, their technology, etc., or basically more information - you can begin to construct a coherent interpretation. How alien would that be? Well, as alien to the reader as they are willing to believe. At the moment, though, BL Eldar come off as... window dressing; their actions presented as "alien" merely because no information is provided upon which to offer a substantial framework of interpretation.
That's what I'm all for. More info, more knowledge. That's what I'm after. It's so much easier to write about or understand something when you have knowledge of their life and you can project yourself into their place. So far it's pretty hard when you only have bits and pieces that don't always go together, at which point one is forced to improvise.


Of course, that seems to be what GW wants. Unfortunately, when it comes down to the BL novels it seems that they're throwing the baby out with the bathwater, as it were.
I'm always amused that in those BL writing competitions alien PoV stories are pretty much discarted from the start.


Well, kinda. Of course, the examples that you provide make the argument sound ludicrous, but the over-arching premise is applicable.
Oh, I'm ludicrous? You're talking about a stone axe that some dude found in a cave. When a person for the first time sees an Eldar guardian running with a shuriken pistol and sword, I doubt he has much trouble knowing what's going on. But if you see a purple globe hovering in the air and humming quietly with some red tentacles of light dancing around, you propably have to take a closer look.


In terms of an ethnography, though, you're mapping your own interpretations onto the Eldar based upon the act, rather than the import or nature of that act to the Eldar themselves.
Ok, now it's getting confusing. If it's given forth that the Eldar don't fancy dying due to the surprice buttsecks in the Warp and all that, how else should I take it? Are you saying the Eldar are like women; saying one thing, doing the other and feeling something that's neither of those two.


For some reason, I cannot help but think of the film, The Last Samurai.
No, more on the lines of feral children.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feral_child


Is it just about the physiology, for you?
Why does a cheetah run after it's prey rather than stalk like a lion? Because it's fast. Sometimes our physiology defines how we work. Not always how we think, but a hunter thinks like a hunter because it has the physiology of a hunter. I'm not saying it's all due to physiology, but it's one of those things that can tell us alot. If scientists have managed to do pretty detailed interpretations of long dead animals due to their physiology, it's a sign that physiology can give us information on how a being acts on some level.

So we can look at two different animal skeletons and define which one is the predator and which one the prey, down to how they could have acted and what they could have eaten, why can't we apply that to aliens.

If Eldar are pretty much humans with pointy ears, we can start assuming things from that. That would mean that by ergonomy they would prefer same things as we do. Where as Kroot would prefer different things as they walk on their toes and have dual thumbs.


I believe in the context of this thread it's more about how to identify what could be improved with BL rather than "voting with your feet/wallet."
No, I don't mean it by that, but if one can't find anything good about BL book, why does one keep reading them? Just to get something to whine about? Not referring to anymore, just saying.

Kage2020
14-10-2007, 20:03
I think it's a symbiotic relationship. GW is the one who pulls the strings, so if they didn't agree with the 40KFantasy styte, they could do something about it.
Please note that "40kFantasy" is actually an interpretation of the 40k universe in a "medieval fantasy" style, and not a description for the style that GW (or BL or whomever) employs in writing its codices, novels, magazines, or whatever. If you want a brief description of 40kFantasy, please check out the Anargo Wiki in the "Roleplaying" section, and while it is not exactly in the direction that I would have taken it from my original conception, it is still quite interesting.


Taken that even the dinosaurs were evolving towards humanoid form, so if it's happened twice on two different species, why couldn't evolution favor humanoids elsewhere as well?
Not quite so sure about that, MrBigMr, but with reference to the whole bilateral symmetry occurring elsewhere? It's possible, but I would not conclude that it is a necessary product of evolution.

Whatever twiddles your biscuit.


Oh, I'm ludicrous?
Please take another gander at what I wrote, MrBigMr. I actually said your example made my argument look ludicrous, i.e. the whole uniformitarianism and stone axe thing. In the case of the shuriken catapult, we have a tiny bit more information on them than we have about "neolithic hand axes," or whatever, even though the former is fictional and the latter obviously not. What that means is the greater the number of correlations between two artefacts, the more likely - with certain caveats - of similar function. That's one of the reasons that I mentioned plant residue (i.e. starch grain) analysis -- it increases the number of correlations and therefore the likely correct assignation of the artefacts known as "hand axes" to a category that would be similar to the modern world, i.e. axe.

Rather, the argument is ultimately a testament to the axiom, "Looks can be deceiving." Nothing more.


...If it's given forth that the Eldar don't fancy dying due to the surprice buttsecks in the Warp and all that, how else should I take it?
Again, not quite what I was saying, MrBigMr. I was merely pointing out that just because, say, a human might associate filial devotion, sibling rivalry, or whatever, to a given observed act that it in no way means that the observed would share the same understanding, or more correctly interpretation, of the act. In short, there are cultural variants that might not directly map over from one species to another, or even one race to another.

Of course, I do not preclude commonality of experience. Much like the application of phenomenology to archaeology, while there are broadly applicable categories, the idea is that beyond certain parameters there isn't really a "given experience" of something.

In short, it's about freedom of interpretation, MrBigMr, through the use of anthropological and archaeological examples.


No, more on the lines of feral children.
It's all but one and the same, MrBigMr, at least from an anthropological standpoint.


If scientists have managed to do pretty detailed interpretations of long dead animals due to their physiology, it's a sign that physiology can give us information on how a being acts on some level.
I do not contend that physiology will have a bearing on interpretation of a certain set of 'things,' I would merely question how much it would define. That's the reason for the interrogative/question mark at the end of the sentence.

(And I'm more than aware of the use of skeletons in the reconstruction of lifeways. :D )


If Eldar are pretty much humans with pointy ears, we can start assuming things from that.
Physiologically you can, but not necessarily in terms of their psychology, cognition or whatever you want to talk about. That they are bilaterally symmetric is a bit of a red herring, as even Xenology somehow manages to show (in the middle of all that terrible conspiracy theory).


No, I don't mean it by that, but if one can't find anything good about BL book, why does one keep reading them? Just to get something to whine about? Not referring to anymore, just saying.
Who said you couldn't find anything good about a BL book?

Kage

MrBigMr
14-10-2007, 20:30
Somehow this thread turned out to be as fun as jerking off with a fist full of rock salt. I quit.

Kage2020
14-10-2007, 20:34
Ah, that's a shame. It was just about to get through the preliminaries and into the potentially interesting stuff. You know, doing away with all the assumptions and seeing where it might lead you (the generic you, that is). Well, the thread if it continues after that somewhat colourful visual image will be the weaker for it...

Kage

MrBigMr
14-10-2007, 21:11
Well, if you have something else to say, then say it. I won't be cramping your style anymore.

Kage2020
14-10-2007, 21:45
<sighs> That makes it sound like shouting out sermons, when it was more in the way of discussion. My bad for that. :-/

Kage