Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Papers I want other people to write, Part 1

(Part 1, because I'm sure there will be follow-up posts.)

As I noted in my previous post, I keep a todo list of things I want to write on someday, no matter how vague or ill-formed. I'm quite liberal about what I put on the list, and only rarely do I take things off it unfinished. Nevertheless, there are still some ideas where I think "I'd love to READ that paper", but I don't think I'll ever get around to WRITING it myself, because I know there will always be other things higher up in the priority queue. So in this post I'm going to outline one of those -- a paper I'd love to read and am unlikely to write myself, so I'd love for someone else to write it (or for someone else to have already have written it -- please leave relevant citations in the comments!).

For a book chapter I was working on over Easter break, I had reason to get L. Sprague de Camp's Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers: The Makers of Heroic Fantasy via ILL. Of course, I needed it for one tiny snippet, and that's all I read of it until the morning it was due, whereupon I started reading it while walking out to the library and was so caught up in it that afternoon I ordered a copy for myself. It came over the weekend, and I started reading it last night.

The first chapter discusses what comprises the genre of "heroic fantasy", along with a history of non-realistic fiction genres over the course of western history. He has a rather characteristic (and flawed) view of the so-called "Dark Ages", and notes:

After the West Roman Empire fell to the barbarians in the fifth century of the Christian era, literacy in Europe all but vanished. For several centuries, most fiction took the form of hagiographies. In these imaginary lives of saints, some martyrs, after being beheaded, went about carrying their heads in their hands (p. 8).

I want to read the paper that reimagines medieval saints' hagiographies as science fiction/fantasy. Heck, I also want to read the sci-fi/fantasy novel that builds upon a medieval saint's hagiography for its story/plot line.

Internet, go to it. Collectively, we all have far too much time on our hands. I'm sure you can make this happen.

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