Reviewing ‘The City and The City’

Fantasy, Fiction, Genre, Horror, Literary, Modernity, Poetry, Surrealism

Well, I’ve just finished China Miéville’s superb new book, ‘The City and The City’. It’s utterly gripping, a noir-ish police procedural with an Eastern European feel that both builds on, reacts against and moves beyond the concerns and achievements of his previous novels.

So you’ve probably worked out that I’d recommend it to anyone who shares the concerns of this blog. Whether you enjoy excellent, imaginative fiction, open-ended modern poetry (or even, I’m sure, experimental or improvised music), it’s well worth checking out.

And now I’m going to talk about it in more detail with MULTIPLE SPOILERS, so if you haven’t read it yet, and don’t want any surprises ruined, STOP READING NOW!

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

Right, that was pretty unambiguous. Anyway, now that I’ve done that, I can start giving away plot points left, right and centre – and to talk about it properly, I really need to do that, because what it is and what it means are so carefully and effectively intertwined.

At the heart of the book is the relationship between two twinned cities, Beszel and Ul Qoma. Both are very literally, and very substantially, intertwined; ‘crosshatched’, to use Miéville’s coinage. Much of the detail and action of the book comes from that relationship, and the way that inhabitants of the two cities have adjusted to it.

For me, the book’s central achievement is the way that it uses that crosshatching to literalise a metaphor set, one that both forces detailed consideration of twinned / opposing otherness, and refuses to collapse into any final meaning or commentary on them.

At various points as I read the book, I went from understanding the two cities as Christianity and Islam, the West and the East, to wondering if the whole book was a kind of coded intellectual / literary autobiography, via seeing it as a way of talking about splits between genre and literary fiction, then reading it as talking about left / right wing oppositions, and so on.

The imagery supports all of these readings, and – I’m sure – many more, without insisting on any of them as full or final. That’s something I really loved, for many reasons. Most immediately, it builds very directly on one of my favourite moments in his previous novels – the climax of ‘The Iron Council’.

As you’ll no doubt remember, the book ends in an image that simultaneously represents two directly opposed emotions – hope and despair – in a way that’s very directly inspired by one of the great Western comments on the distance between legend and reality, the final frames of ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’.

For me, that image felt like the crystallization of an internal opposition, between China the Marxist (who believes in the possibility of radical, positive change in society) and China the Realist (who has a perhaps more nuanced and pessimistic view of human nature). I thought it was a wonderful presentation of two opposed stances; and I also wondered where he’d go from there, how he’d reconcile the tension between the two viewpoints.

My mistake was to see the choice as a binary one. Miéville’s built on the moment by finding a third way, and is now operating – far more effectively than at any previous point – as China the novelist, China the Image Maker. Rather than building narratives that endorse or discuss particular political viewpoints, he’s creating open image sets that resist simple, final conclusions, and instead encourage readers to think for themselves.

That creative maneuver is profoundly refreshing. It’s a reinvention of China’s root definition – he’s moved from being a novelist engaged in a very specific (albeit important) argument with genre, to one who uses the tools of genre to look out at the modern world – and it moves him into fascinating new literary company.

Previously I’ve pitched him to people as (in very glib shorthand) Britain’s leading Marxist Fantasist; now, his use of internally coherent but literally inexplicable image sets mean that it’s possible to read him in relationship with cutting edge modern poets like Jeremy Prynne, Lee Harwood and Ken Edwards, who work very hard indeed to balance that same clarity of image with opacity of final meaning, and even of language.

But how fully achieved is that transition? ‘The City and The City’ does hold true to relatively traditional narrative structures; it does have recognizable echoes of previous books, and of the habits of writing that have driven them. Two key examples for me are the collapse of the final Orciny myth, and the mass breach that leads to city-wide chaos as the novel draws to a close.

The former seems to me to be very close to the resolution of the Magus Fin narrative strand at the climax of ‘The Scar’. In both cases, we discover that a central, motivating myth – a Macguffin – is in fact a fiction, a fantasy generated out of neurotic personal need.

However, there is progression here too. The Magus Fin functions as a critique of reader expectations of genre, pointing up the gap between the cod-Fantasy motivations we’re often too comfortable with (Our talisman has been stolen! We must retrieve it, lest we face the anger of the gods!) and the more sophisticated, realistic drivers that make the political world happen (We’re economically exposed! We need to get our data back!).

Althought the Magus Fin narrative does throw a light on political myth making, it’s fundamentally an argument about genre, made from within genre. The Orciny event – although ostensibly similar – can be used to think about genre, but sits outside it. The meanings that can be derived from it centre more on the way that personal world fantasies are received, processed and responded to by the body politic.

So, I’m undercutting my own argument! Read in this way, the Orciny event becomes a conscious reflection on the Magus Fin, an attempt to include its concerns in a broader argument about the real world nature and reception of fantasy (rather than just Fantasy).

And then there’s the mass breach that ends the book. The Threat to the City is a repeated Miéville structural trope, one that is – for me – very directly derived from his genre roots.

Binary oppositions are fundamental to Fantasy; magical heroes need magical monsters, shadow selves that exist to help the hero shine. And, of course, the stronger the shadow, the more glory there is in overcoming it. So, the city gets threatened with destruction, to allow our heroes to save it – to define the terms of their achievement.

But, as I type, I’m realizing that there’s more to China’s repeated city destruction attempts than I’d previously thought. Not all destructions are equal; some, in fact, are to be encouraged – witness, again, ‘The Iron Council’. Breaking the status quo can be – or, at least, can aspire to be – A Very Good Thing.

Seen in that light, the mass breach becomes more interesting. It represents a moment of possible transcendence, an escape from an artificial set of limitations. That would destroy Beszel and Ul Qoma; but it could also liberate a new city, one that might provide its inhabitants with an easier and more fulfilled mode of living.

A shock, or a release? Such a change would be both, at once; and each has their costs, and their benefits. The mass breach forces consideration of such a transition as the novel climaxes, without committing to a final judgment as to whether it would be a Good Thing, or a Bad Thing. As such, it’s a very effective component of the novel’s broader strategy of constructive ambiguity.

There is one thing that the book is very unambiguous about, however. Unlike Miéville’s previous novels, there’s no magic in it at all, nothing of the supernatural. Beszel, Ul Qoma, Orciny, Breach; within ‘The City and The City’, all are entirely human constructs, very carefully sited in our world.

As such, the book has the same kind of relationship with the genre of Fantasy that slasher movies have with Horror. In (say) ‘Psycho’, or ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, Horror is achieved; but its achievement is an entirely human one, making these films meditations on our shared capacity for evil, rather than abstract exemplifications of an external darkness.

Likewise, ‘The City and The City’. It’s an entirely fantastical book that has no Fantasy in it whatsoever. Where there is mystery – for example, in the precursor machine / culture – it springs from a very human lack of knowledge, and consequent fantasising, rather than from any sort of supernatural intervention.

At heart, it’s a meditation on the ability of the human imagination to build unreal worlds, and then to make them real by agreeing on them. Beszel, Ul Qoma; each city is a convention set that only exists because enough people agree that they’re there, consensual hallucinations that become real through that very consensus.

By contrast, Orciny’s failure is not untruth; rather, it lies in its inability to gather enough followers to give it life. If enough people used it as a tool for imaginative interpretation of the world around them, it would become real, just as Ul Qoma and Beszel are – within the book – entirely real, entirely non-fictional.

So, a book that contains much; and a book that is hard to review, precisely because of its refusal to settle into a single set of meanings. That makes the above necessarily provisional; it’s one interpretation, where many are possible, and none can be fully or finally ‘right’. And, of course, there’s a lot in the book that I haven’t mentioned at all.

Which, in the end, makes the responsibility for finding ‘meaning’ in the book an entirely personal one. The above is part of my own take on ‘The City and The City’ – what’s yours?

Friedman, Capitalism and Fantasy

Culture, Fantasy, Genre, Gentleman thieves, Modernity, Philosophy

Fantasy’s often condemned for ignoring reality; but much supposedly rational, descriptive writing can have a tenuous relationship with reality, and with the fundamental structures of reality, too. Stories of the fantastic at least have the virtue of being honest about their fictive nature.

Take Milton Friedman, for example. I’ve just been reading ‘Capitalism and Freedom’ (University of Chicago Press, 2002), which according to Wikipedia ‘makes the case for economic freedom as a precondition for political freedom’, and has been a key text for a wide variety of neo-liberal thinkers – people, you’d think, who were very grounded in reality.

Certainly, Friedman views his work as one that’s rooted in the real. He’s very specific about why he wrote it; to provide material for ‘bull sessions’ and – more importantly – to provide a set of options for status-quo smashing change, that can be held in reserve until they’re ready to be implemented at moments of crisis:

‘That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.’

The crisis comes; and Milton’s there, ready to defuse it with his ‘alternative policies’. Designed (as he implies they are) to have maximum constructive impact at moments of maximum stress, one assumes that they’ll be as realistic – that is, as rigorously thought through and as practically effective – as possible. The very opposite of fantasy, in fact.

Well, you’d have thought so. And no doubt, you’d have hoped so, too. But in fact – if ‘Capitalism and Freedom’ is anything to go by – Milton’s a fantasy writer too, though there is one thing that sets him apart from the Tolkiens and the Dunsanys and the Moorcocks and the Lovecrafts – they don’t pretend that they’re writing fact.

The first clue to Milton’s duplicity comes in his deployment of apparent historical fact. Take this, for example, on Winston Churchill in the 30s – according to Friedman, a period when Churchill was desperately trying to warn the British against Nazism:

‘He was not permitted to talk over the radio to the British people because the BBC was a government monopoly and his views were “too controversial”.’ (p.19)

Friedman takes this as an example of ‘socialism’ stifling ‘dissent’. Or this, on exchange controls (of which he disapproves):

‘To the best of my knowledge they were invented by Hjalmar Schacht in the early years of the Nazi regime’ (p.57)

Their Nazi links of course being self-evident proof that such controls are implicitly linked to Facism in general.

Rooting around on the internet, I couldn’t find any reference to Churchill’s anti-Nazi views being censored; in fact, for most of the 30s he had a regular column in the EveningStandard, seemed to have given major speeches at the Royal Albert Hall and elsewhere every other week, and in fact appeared on BBC radio in (at the very least) 1934, 1935 and 1938, talking on ‘the causes of war’ and similar.

Admittedly, Churchill was prevented from discussing Indian constitutional changes over the airwaves in 1933, but he wasn’t the only person thus restricted; it was felt that the subject was so sensitive that only party leaders could talk about it.

What about Hjalmar Schacht? Well, positioning exchange controls as a fiendish Nazi innovation by linking them with Schacht becomes a little less convincing when you find out who he was. I’ll quote directly from Wikipedia:

‘To greater and lesser degrees, Schacht was involved in numerous attempted coups in the years between his dismissal from the Reichsbank and his imprisonment. Indeed, Schacht was one of the main driving forces behind the 1938 planned coup. At Schacht’s denazification trial (subsequent to his acquittal at Nuremberg) it was declared by a judge that “None of the civilians in the resistance did more or could have done more than Schacht actually did.”

As a result of the various putsch attempts between 1938 and 1941, Schacht was arrested on 23 July 1944, accused of having participated in the July 20 Plot to assassinate Hitler. He was sent to Ravensbrück and Flossenburg and finally to Dachau.’

Friedman plays fast and loose with history to score rhetorical points; this focus on rhetorical, rather than factual, support recurs throughout the book. Making dubious, counter-factual links between economic behaviour he disagrees with and the Nazis is actually one of his more restrained tics; more usually, he just points out that – if you don’t follow his policies – free society will collapse, pretty much instantly:

‘the issue of legislating rules for monetary policy has much in common with a topic that seems at first altogether different, namely the argument for the first amendment to the Constitution’ (p.51)

‘such a device seems to me the only feasible device for converting monetary policy into a pillar of free society, rather than a threat to its foundations’ (p.55)

‘the subject of international monetary arrangements is… the most serious short-run threat to economic freedom in the United States today – aside, of course, from the outbreak of World War III.’ (p.57)

Incidentally, these statements aren’t substantiated in any deep way; their function, like Milton’s historical references, is rhetorical, not factual. And, like those references, if you prod them a little – they collapse.

The above are only a few examples; there are many more within the book. And that’s just Friedman’s rhetoric – I haven’t even begun to take issue with his arguments, whether economic or more generally sociological.

If I wanted to be typing all night I would – for example – take issue with Friedman’s rather odd understanding of group dynamics (government or trade bodies can do no right; commercial bodies can do no wrong), have a go at his apparent proof that we don’t need any sort of professional licensing (registration is ‘an important first step in the direction of a system in which every individual has to carry an identity card, every individual has to inform the authorities what he plans to do before he does it’ – p.149), register my irritation at his constant straw man arguments, or take issue with his ongoing assumption everyone can have a perfect, rational understanding of the short and long term costs and benefits of any commercial arrangement that they enter into, at any time and apparently at the drop of a hat. Amongst other things.

But, I want to have a bath, so I think I’ll stop there. And in any case, the real aim of this article isn’t to prove Milton Friedman wrong (he does that himself, very ably), but rather to demonstrate how his apparently disinterested assembly of facts is – in fact – a very partial tract, that consistently relies on rhetoric over reason to drive its argument forward. It is, in fact, a fantasy, derived from how Milton would like the world to be, rather than how it actually is.

And that brings me back to the point I was making. Fantastic writing can trigger an aggressively negative reaction from certain kinds of reader; I wonder if part of their anger comes from the way that fantastic writing is so aggressively honest about its unreality, thus casting an unwelcome light on the dishonesty innate in some texts – like Milton’s – that pretend to be factual in their construction and conclusions.

Serial killing

Genre, Horror

A note today that’s not so much about horror as about thriller. I’m halfway through ‘The Lonely Dead’, the second book in Michael Marshall’s (better known to genre fans as Michael Marshall Smith) Straw Men series. It’s compulsive reading. Having finished the first one, ‘The Straw Men’, I went straight out and bought two and three, and now I’m binging.

Over and above the plot driven unputdownability, what’s really fascinating about Marshall’s work is the subtext. The books so far have been obsessed with aging and decay, with coming to a maturity that has at its core a deep, disenchanted awareness of the transience of life and its pleasures.

Marshall doesn’t make Hannibalised anti-heroes of his serial killers. Rather, he keeps them at the margins of his story. They remain unglamourised, anonymous. He’s concerned with the effects of their actions, rather than the actions themselves.

That anonymity allows them to perform an important thematic function. In narrative terms, they’re barely privileged beyond other in-narrative killers – lung cancer, for example. As such, they form part of a complex rhetorical web, coming to symbolise the random, shattering, inevitable action of death itself.

I started by saying that these books are thrillers, but having written the above I’m now not sure about that. In some ways, they’re deepest horror, obsessing about the one inevitability that we all share; that that implacable serial killer death waits for every one of us, leaving only empty space and the effects of our passing as traces of our lives.

(Un)Real city

Fantasy, Fiction, Genre, Literary, Science Fiction

Just been reading over yesterday’s post about Zola, and I realised that there’s an unstated assumption about the actual process of writing underlying it.

I don’t think that any writer pulls something from nothing. Rather, I think that the act of writing is an act of interpretation. Details of the world are pulled into fiction and made artificial. One component of that artificiality is the context that they’re given, a context that makes them part of a broader, truth-reflecting argument. Fiction makes truthful interpretation happen by stealing from and falsifying the world.

That process of re-contextualisation starts with observation, both direct and indirect. Direct observation means watching the world, listening to people talk, taking in the look and sound and touch of things. Indirect observation means reading and research; finding out about style, gathering content, understanding the possibilities of fiction, learning from those who’ve gone before you.

I can’t imagine writing happening without such a process. Zola, for example, combined direct observation of the people and places of Paris with in-depth reading and research about the modern times he lived in. He’s a Realist in part because he worked very hard to understand how his 19th century reality worked.

The thing is, seen this way, every good writer’s a realist. The most colourful fantasist; the most operatic science fiction writer; all build their fictions through the same careful process of engagement with the world and its products. Direct and indirect observation combined underpin all effective fiction, because fiction, being a mirror, needs this world to look at in order to create its reflection.

So yesterday I argued that Zola was really a fantasist; today, I’m arguing that fantasists are really realists. Both statements are equally true, and both point to the tension between the real and the unreal that lies at the heart of any decent piece of writing, regardless of genre or aesthetic intent.

Reality’s a fantasy

Fantasy, Genre, Narrative, Novelists

Just finished Zola’s ‘L’Assomoir’ (‘The Drinking Den’), and once again been pondering the fantasy / reality gap. Zola saw himself as a Realist; closely allied with the Impressionists, he sought to create a prose equivalent to their vivid, journalistic depictions of everyday Parisian life.

Zola and the Impressionists broke cultural and aesthetic taboos, and both – in their day – were seen as exciting, dangerous artistic revolutionaries. But nowadays, both fit very easily into a very conservative view of how the arts work, and what they’re for. They’ve achieved a respectability that’s denied to genre fiction, of any kind.

That’s because of a very interesting shift. The argument for Realism has triumphed. To be perceived as having a serious moral purpose, art – and in particular writing – has to be seen to directly reflect reality. Zola’s work is now praised for the qualities that originally drove its condemnation.

And that creates problems for fantasists. Writing that makes no claim to direct realism immediately steps away from a key plank supporting critical approval. It doesn’t teach; it can’t improve; and so it’s not worthy of serious consideration. Ironically, the more fiction that a work is perceived to contain, the less it’s respected as fiction.

But such a view misses something very important. Zola writes fiction, and that makes him a fantasist too; and in that act of writing he shares very important motivations and goals with the best modern genre writers, the Moorcocks and the Mievilles, the Harrisons and the Peakes, and their peers.

First of all, there’s the fact of the fiction itself. ‘L’Assomoir’, for example, is a very built book, divided into thirteen chapters with a central turn in chapter seven, six chapters on either side mirroring each other in close and complex ways as its heroine Gervaise rises and then falls again. Throughout, imagery and action support this central, entirely artificial structure.

For all its claims to realism, ‘L’Assomoir’ is – like every other novel – an aestheticised, constructed fantasy of the world, not the thing itself. It’s built according to the writer’s need, to make a particular, more or less conscious argument. Zola summed up that argument very pithily: ‘Shut the drinking houses, open schools’.

If this were a conversation, it’s entirely possible that at this point someone would say – ‘But Al! Surely that disproves everything you’ve just said – because Zola is trying to create real change in the real world, whereas fantasists do their best to escape from it.’ And in response, I’d look at this person over my pint of Porter (because such conversations very often take place in pubs), and say:

Not at all. Any kind of writer – fantasist, realist, whatever else – is trying to create real change in the real world, using the inherently unreal tools of fiction. To read is to be changed. The word tells us that; its root comes from an old German verb, whose ‘original senses… are those of taking or giving counsel, taking charge, controlling.’

To read is to be counselled, to control information and at the same time to allow yourself to be controlled by it. Just like any other good writer, the best fantasists use that control to try and accomplish positive change in the reader and, by extension, in the world.

Michael Moorcock defined this kind of writing very precisely in a recent barnstorming Interzone editorial; the goal of such a writer is to ‘confront the present, rather than exemplify it’. He’s talking about writers like those above, like Ballard, Burroughs, Dick and others, but it’s a literary goal that I suspect Zola too would have heartily endorsed.

Myths to a flame

Essayists, Genre, Literary, Metafiction, Philosophy

In ‘Mythologies’, Barthes notes – ‘it is well known how often our ‘realistic’ literature is mythical (if only as a crude myth of realism) and how our ‘literature of the unreal’ has at least the merit of being only slightly so’.

Elsewhere, M. John Harrison has pointed out that, as soon as you’ve got a spaceship or a dragon, you’re writing metafiction – fiction that’s very aware it’s unreal. That awareness effects the reader’s engagement with the whole, drawing attention again and again to the fact that they’re dealing with nothing more than some ink and some paper.

That would seem to run counter to Barthes’ defense of the unreal as the more real. But he’s getting at something deeper.

All fiction contains ideology. For example, the writer uses words to mimic people, has them behave in a certain way, and then punishes or rewards them – or at the very least, judges them – accordingly. The ideology of a given narrative lies in part in that authorial response to character, and by extension character action.

The metafictional status of the ‘literature of the unreal’ constantly reminds the reader that what he or she is reading is entirely constructed. It’s not a real world; it’s a rhetorical world, created (whether consciously or unconsciously) to articulate a given world view.

Contrasting the ‘literature of the unreal’ with ‘realistic’ literature reveals the flawed nature of the latter. It pretends to be an accurate recreation of reality but in reality – filtered in the same way through a set of authorial values – it’s as mythological as the fantastic. It exerts the same ideological pressure on the reader.

But it pretends not to; it pretends to be a world, rather than an interested representation of a world. It hides the subjective values it embodies, presenting them instead as objective truths. Opinion becomes an artefact – in Barthes’ terms, a myth.

Hence Barthes’ criticism of the ‘realistic’ as being more mythical than the fantastic. Unlike non-realist fiction, it pretends to be something it’s not; a real, objective world, rather than just ink on paper building subjectivity.

Why Alan Moore is god #2,734

Comics, Fiction, Genre, Novelists, Superheroes

Quite apart from the fact that he’s actually met John Constantine twice (‘I’ll tell you the ultimate secret of magic. Any cunt could do it.’), and worships Paris Hilton headed puppet snake deity Glycon, Alan Moore is god because of the original comic version of ‘V for Vendetta’. It’s haunted me ever since I was 15 or 16, but it took me a long time to work out why.

Ostensibly, it’s the story of V, an anarchist superhero in a dystopian post-nuclear war Britain who succeeds in bringing down a racist, fascist government by dressing up as Guy Fawkes, killing several hundred people, and blowing up the Houses of Parliament.

But that’s only a very superficial reading of it. For me, what it’s really about is maturity, and loss, and the relationship between the two. As you grow, you leave so much behind you; and it’s the simultaneous sadness and necessity of that loss that provide the emotional engine of the book.

That depth is centred on Evey, the book’s protagonist. As she moves through the book she engages with and loses a series of father figures (her real father, Scots criminal Gordon Deitrich, to some extent the state she lives in, and of course V himself). Those losses are painful, but they’re seen as essential steps on the road to a hard-won and very real emotional maturity.

These themes echo through the rest of the book, explored in a wide variety of ways by a wide variety of characters. Perhaps the most memorable image of loss and progress combined comes from V himself, at the book’s climax; realising his own obsolescence, he lets himself die. Evey takes over from him, an evolved V (or e-v, in fact) for a new world.

So that’s one more reason why Alan Moore is god. ‘V for Vendetta’ is a profound and emotionally sophisticated piece of writing; and it was one of the key books that opened up the possibilities of fantastic fiction for me, teaching me how to use the unreal to talk about the real, and challenging me to get out there and do it for myself.

Stasis, dynamism

Fiction, Genre, Literary, Psychology

Well, I drafted an astonishingly perceptive and witty blog entry at home last night, which would have thrilled and amazed everyone as well as instantly doubling my on-site traffic, but I’ve left it on my hard drive at home, so instead of that I’m just going to blast slightly randomly about Cervantes and stasis.

There’s a great moment about halfway through ‘Don Quixote’ where Cervantes takes on other writers who’ve been writing their own knock-off Don Quixote stories. He blasts their legitimacy in no uncertain terms, pointing out that he and he only is the writer of the real Don Quixote.

In modern terms, he’s pointing out that Don Quixote isn’t open source – and for me, that’s a key point in the definition of what the modern literary novelist is. Literary novelists don’t write open source material; they create self contained worlds that exist purely to support the narrative / thematic points that their novels are making. Their books, like Cervantes’, are entirely personal and entirely self-contained.

But – as pointed out yesterday – substantial portions of genre writing are very comfortable with open source worlds and characters. And there’s an interesting structural point to be made off the back of that.

That kind of world relies on characters with relatively static, clearly defined characteristics being thrown into a variety of different plot situations. The interest doesn’t come from watching the characters develop and change – rather, it comes from seeing their familiar strengths and weaknesses tested in new situations.

Hence in part literary critics’ often rabid criticism of genre writing. This kind of stasis is antithetic to one of literary fiction’s core concerns; the tracing of emotional change through a clearly defined, highly significant segment of a character’s life. A set of fictional structures which make a virtue of stasis, such an opposed value, can only seem deeply problematic to a literary writer.

So perhaps that’s one way of understanding the difference between literary fiction and genre fiction? In literary fiction, change is internalised, understood as tectonic shifts in character emotional definition. In genre fiction, change is often externalised, understood to be a new environment or other challenge for a clearly defined set of characters to explore.

And how does that relate back to Cervantes? He wasn’t happy to see his characters, his fictional world, changed by other people. But genre writers who create open source characters and worlds know that – in their essentials – their creations won’t change. Rather, new writers will introduce new situations to challenge them and excite readers. They’re not taking control from the original writer; rather, they’re testing his creation in new ways, which is a very different thing indeed.