The Sense of Style

The Sense of Style – The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century: Stephen Pinker, Penguin £9.99, 360pp.
Sense of Style cover What is good prose? There is no shortage of advice on the subject, and plenty of books on writing style. If that wasn’t enough, opinions vary, from the style nazis who quote lots of awkward rules, to the other extreme.
Pinker says that he loves reading style manuals, but goes on to say that he thinks a lot of them miss the point and are based on a shaky understanding of grammar.
He does not think that writing was was better in the old days, but that style still matters for getting your intended point across.
Major chapters include examples of good writing, how to avoid writing bureaucratic and other stuffy prose, how to avoid ‘the curse of knowledge’ and avoid baffling your reader, understanding syntax, and how to ensure that one idea follows another in a clear way.
The final chapter relates how to make sense of the rules of grammar, word choice and punctuation. This is the most interesting chapter, as Pinker lists which rules make sense and which are fairy tales and should be ignored. Some ‘rules’ arise from a mistaken notion that rules that apply to Latin ought to apply to English.
This is a most useful book which steers a middle course between free for all and overly prescriptive ‘rules’. Pinker is no self-appointed ‘expert’, but is Chair of the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, and the author of several books on language.

Forgotten Futures

In the spirit of the Independent on Sunday’s “Invisible Ink” column I am harking back to a review I wrote in the 1990’s. David Wingrove’s “Chung Kuo” sci-fi series was clearly intended by author and publisher to be a best-selling series with a wide appeal, a kind of 1990’s Game of Thrones, but it met with a rather mixed response. I had not heard anything of Wingrove or Chunk Kuo for ages but stumbled on this review in my files recently.
Looking on Amazon, it seems that the original series is out of print, but that a reworked series has been launched from Corvus in 2011. I’d heard nothing about that either.

(NEL,1991,440pp, £15.99 h/b.) ISBN 0-450-54992-5
David Wingrove’s seven-volume CHUNG KUO series is, for a SF novel, almost unique in its projected size and character count. It has also generated an almost unique amount of acrimony between author and genre reviewers. Shortly before reading Book III, I received a personally addressed open letter from Mr Wingrove. This was the latest shot in a running skirmish between an angry Wingrove and the editors and reviewers of the BSFA (British Science Fiction Association) magazine VECTOR. It is evident from various published interviews and letters that Mr Wingrove takes his magnum opus very seriously. In this latest open letter, Mr Wingrove vigorously refutes attacks made on him and his book THE WHITE MOUNTAIN made in a recent VECTOR review and editorial. I do think that the criticisms made in this latest attack were intemperate and misleading, so I shan’t repeat them here; but for what I thought of the book myself, read on.
CHUNG KUO (=Middle Kingdom =Imperial China) is set in the 23rd Century, when the Han Chinese are rulers of an Earth whose rapidly multiplying population lives in continuous multilevel cities which cover vast stretches of territory. Technological progress has been halted at about a 21st century level by a regime suspicious of any kind of change, and the past has been suppressed and falsified to present an approved Chinese version of 2000 years of history.
Socially, this is a corrupt and totalitarian culture which models itself in many ways on the old Chinese Empire, and in which women are treated as chattels. Surveillance cameras record everybody’s movements. Chung Kuo is ruled by seven autocrats, the Seven, each of whom has absolute rule over a city-continent. Those of highest status live on the uppermost levels of the cities, while those below a certain floor barrier, the Net, live in lawless levels where only the strongest and most brutal survive. Below all is the original ground surface; the Clay.
Political opposition to the rule of the Seven has come from a Western European pro-change group, the Dispersionists, who were in favour of developing interstellar spaceflight, but by the time the third book opens this movement has been crushed and is replaced by terrorist groups. The principal actors are the terrorist leader, DeVore; the undercover terrorist collaborator, Hans Ebert; General Knut Tolonen, a staunch supporter of the Seven; Gregor Karr, a brutal major in the Security forces; Li Yuan, one of the Seven and ruler of City Europe; and Wang Sau-Leyan, one of the Seven and ruler of City Africa. In Vol III, the terrorists inflict disruptive damage on the world of Chung Kuo, and in turn suffer crushing defeats. The old unity of the Seven is shattered by personal rivalry, and there is pressure for the population growth to be restricted, and a research project is underway to develop means to fit all men with headsets that will enable them to be remotely controlled.
There is a very large cast of characters, many with Chinese names, and Wingrove’s method is to write many fairly short sections which usually consist of a confrontation or interaction between two or three of these characters, or a short piece of action. The plot is very complex and involves a number of parallel schemes and subplots that extend through the several volumes. This is only incidentally a science fiction series; clearly the intention of Wingrove and his publishers was to produce a middlebrow SF version of the Family Saga or corporate-struggle or spy thriller bestseller, and using many of the same techniques.
Most of the SF elements, e.g. the multilevel city, the computer networks, the identifications by retinal pattern, are the common currency of modern SF.
It has to be said that the attempt has not been altogether successful. It is impossible to find any major sympathetic character with whom one can identify and whose adventures one can follow. Every one of the major characters listed above is a ruthless and unpleasant type, responsible for many brutal killings, often carried out personally. There are several scenes in which women are sexually exploited, abused and even killed during sex acts. Mr Wingrove has succeeded admirably in recreating the beastliness and venality of all totalitarian regimes! The prose, while adequately fashioned for its task, is not such that one would read the book just to enjoy the music of its language.
This is largely a novel of interiors. Such noteworthy descriptive passages as exist are mostly of the knicknacks inside the apartments of the powerful, or of the rural delights of their estates. In the same way, one senses that many of the action scenes are, despite the great length of the series, hurried through rather than suspensefully exploited to the full. Scenes involving ideas such as cyborgs, animated corpses, half-humans and human duplicates which ought to have been striking, get rather buried in the onrush of material. As TV, it would have more talk than special effects.
You don’t have to be a statistician to look at the present urban sprawl and deduce that that a population of 30 billion “contained in vast hive-like cities of three hundred levels that spanned whole continents” just doesn’t add up. Surely Mr Wingrove doesn’t mean the English billion (1000,000,000,000)?
The frequent use of Chinese words and phrases in the text may prove an irritant to non-Sinophile readers; the Book III hardback does not contain the glossary or the list of characters. A crucial failing of this book is that it concentrates too much on unpleasant events, leading to a lack of balance between entertainment and message. This reviewer found that because of this, the lack of sympathetic major characters and the bittiness of the text, reading THE WHITE MOUNTAIN and the two preceding volumes wasn’t any fun at all.
I am sceptical about Chung Kuo’s reversion to the customs of the Chinese Empire. The Empire collapsed unmourned a lifetime ago; my impression of how the Chinese might turn out in the future is that they seem as eager for Western ways and technological development as anyone else.
Most people who choose to read THE WHITE MOUNTAIN will have already read vols I and II. Those who haven’t, and think it might interest them, should start by looking at a copy of Book I.

Kim Cowie.

Planets in daytime

Those interested in amateur astronomy may yet not realise that the planets can be found in the sky during the day. Many people will be aware that the Moon can be seen in the daytime clear sky, if you know where to look. Same with the planets, but they can’t be seen without a telescope.
To do this you’ll need one of the various telescopes available nowadays that have a computerised star-seeking mounting. Assuming you know how to set it up, perform a “Solar System Align” using either the Moon or the sun. (Do not look through the telescope or finder at the Sun. Use the telescope’s shadow and then catch the bright projected image on a bit of card.) Once this is done, finding a planet is a no-brainer – just select one on the handset and press Enter.
Venus is the easiest to see by day, followed by Jupiter and then Mars. Mercury, otherwise a very elusive object, can be seen if the sky is clear and the Sun is not shining on the telescope. I have never managed to see Saturn (too dim).
It is also possible to find the brightest stars by the same method.

Some experienced astronomers may point out here that it should be possible to get the same result using an equatorial mount and setting circles. To which I would reply: if you can make setting circles work for you, fine. But I never could, which is why I got a ‘SLT’ as mentioned above. 🙂 It’s like using a sat-nav for the night sky, and makes finding interesting objects far easier.

Rats and Gargoyles

Mary Gentle, RATS AND GARGOYLES,(Bantam, 1990, 412pp, £12.95)
Rats and Garg I had heard good reports of this book, but about fifty pages into it I had begun to fear that I had exposed some hype, that the Emperor was, after all, rather scantily clad. How so?
Mary Gentle is, clearly, very bright. She was too restless at school to do anything but write and play truant, and left as soon as she could. An early novel, HAWK IN SILVER, was published by Gollancz shortly after. She did many menial jobs before returning to full-time education at the age of 26, studying for a BA and, latterly, a Ph.D. Her early reputation was based on a surprisingly small number of books: only three: GOLDEN WITCHBREED, ANCIENT LIGHT, and a short story collection, SCHOLARS AND SOLDIERS. The latter contains, in two novellas, the germ of RATS and GARGOYLES.
I had come to this book with expectations raised by some extensive media coverage and reviews, including a half-page feature in the Sunday Correspondent, and also enthusiastic reports from acquaintances, not to mention a reading of Gentle’s earlier ANCIENT LIGHT. At the outset, I found RATS well done, but resembling, disturbingly, a superior Swords and Sorcery, with no single character emerging as the protagonist. It gets better, though. The city at the Heart of the World unfolds, (in its five quarters, North, South, East, West and Aust). At its heart is the Fane, a cathedral, or black abyss, home of the Thirty-six Decans, the Gods, or demons, on Earth. The helpless human populace are ruled by sentient and courtly Rat-lords, and a guild of masons labours to enlarge the Fane. The humans hope to dislodge the Rat-Lords, while the Rat-Lords scheme among themselves and hope to rid themselves of the Decans. The Decans have a swarm of demon-acolytes, winged reptilian horrors with a tendency of crushing dissent with fang and claw. Other, odder things are going on below and, as they say, at sea.
The previous novels GOLDEN WITCHBREED and its sequel ANCIENT LIGHT have a more conventional narrative style; formally SF, they have all the richness of character and description of a fantasy novel, and fairly obviously, they are about colonialism. The apparent formlessness of RATS is therefore all the more disconcerting. The cast of characters is rich and strange, a dashing Rat-Cardinal, Plessiez; a Rabelasian Lord-Architect, Casaubon; Lucas, a prince attending the University of Crime; a couple of Scholar-Soldiers; a blonde buxom lamdlady; the Rat-Cardinal’s fur-tailed girl protege Zar-bettu-zekigal, and her mage sister; and an underworld female pretender to the human Imperial Dynasty, lurching about in plate armour like some crazed Joan of Arc. There is a raffish young lecturer at the University of Crime who promises to be a major protagonist but soon fades, and some clerics who worship trees.
None of these is the major protagonist; indeed there isn’t one, and the author reveals in an interview with Colin Greenland* that this uniquely democratic state of affairs is entirely deliberate. The scene cuts sharply – snip! – from one part of the storyline to another several times within a chapter, requiring the reader to look sharp. The story has much to do with magia, medieval magic, Masonic arcana and Masons, and a rotting of the fabric of things. Some of the artefacts, the steam-trains, the microphones, the oily siege-engines, are of a refreshing modernity. For half of the book one has little idea what is going on, plotwise; then it gathers itself, the plotting thickens and there are dire events, culminating in the tumbling of the Fane. One is never sure who are the bad guys. Perhaps, one thinks as one explores, there aren’t any. Can it really all end badly?
There is a great deal of originality here, inspired by Gentle’s researches (this is one of the few novels to have a Bibliography as an appendix), and a refreshing absence of the usual fantasy tropes and cliches. The descriptive style is, as in the WITCHBREED novels, rich, even obsessive. Constantly, ears are scratched, tails coiled, clothes spattered, bodies smell of sweat and feel the summer heat (often), clothes are besmeared with mud and other substances, skirts flash, characters move restlessly and so on. Adherents to the autobiographical theory of criticism will care to note that Gentle is herself a redhead, like the Scholar-Soldier White Crow, and a keen participant in swordfighting and battle games.
One might wish that more had been made of the modern elements, to give the book a contemporary resonance, but there is much in it that is very fine. And there are more ideas in one chapter than in a whole shelfload of Dragonlance and its ilk. A book, perhaps, more for those for those who see Fantasy as literature than for those who read Fantasy to immerse themselves in imaginary worlds.

* INTERZONE #42, p49 et seq.

Two SF Novels by Tolstoy


Aelita cover At the Sou’Wester Eastercon some years ago I bought two books from a stall manned by Russian fans. These books, published in the USSR (sic) by Raduga Publishers, Moscow, and printed in English, looked like interesting mementoes of the ‘Con’.
Both are by Alexei Tolstoy (1883-1945), a distant relative of the author of “War and Peace.” Alexei Tolstoy is one of the most widely read authors in Russia, highly regarded there both for his science fiction and for his epic historical works.
AELITA (1923), though not well known in the West, is a famous book in Russia and one of the Russian SF clubs is named after it. A movie version (still occasionally shown)) was made in 1924.
At the opening of the novel, in Petrograd c. 1920, Archibald Skiles sees an advertisment posted by the engineer M.S.Los, asking for volunteers to fly with him to Mars. Skiles interviews Los, and sees the experimental spacecraft, a complicated and hi-tech device by 1920’s standards. While Skiles is at the workshop, a volunteer, Red Army soldier Gusev, introduces himself. Gusev, unlike the other two, is no intellectual, but a restless, practical sort, who is quite ready to desert his wife for a new adventure. Los, a widower, is equally ready to go and face possible death.
Los’s experiments are funded by the Soviet State, so the launch is attended by a group of officials and newspaper reporters. The ship makes a swift passage to Mars and lands safely. Their speed has been such that their watches record a passage of 19 hours, though 24 days have passed on Earth.
Los and Gusev find that Mars has breathable air, and the immediate surroundings are a desert with cacti. They find signs of cultivation, and realise that they are walking in the bottom of a dry canal. They soon make contact with the inhabitants, who have flying machines, and are captured and brought to first a city, then an isolated house. During the flight they see mostly ruins and desolation. During their detention, Gusev talks of plunder and of annexing Mars to the Russian Federative Republic, while Los talks of gathering wisdom.
Soon they are introduced to a graceful young Martian female, Aelita. With some Martian technology resembling video she starts teaching them the language, and is subsequently able to narrate them some Martian history; a history of conflict, of invasion from Earth by Atlanteans.
A love affair between Los and Aelita develops. They learn that a faction of the High Council, led by Aelita’s father, means them no good. A revolution starts in the city, and Gusev, the man of action, escapes and joins in. Aelita’s father, Tuscoob, escapes into an underground labyrinth and launches a destructive counter-attack. Los and Gusev escape. In the final scene, Los is back on Earth, listening to Aelita’s voice calling to him by radio.


Garin page illustration
Garin pic. page
has a number of rather larger-than-life characters: glamorous femme fatale Zoya Montrose, Rolling, a rapacious American capitalist, and Garin, a mysterious engineer who soon displays ruthless tendencies. Following an unexplained murder of a man who turns out to be Garin’s double, Garin is pursued to Paris by Shelga, a Petrograd detective, and the nature of Garin’s activities and his deal with Rolling and his ultimate aim is gradually revealed. Garin, in fact, has invented a heat ray powered by chemicals which burn to produce intense heat. The rays are focussed by a ‘hyperboloid’ to destructive effect. (Any physicists among you may object that it should have been a paraboloid; according to the foreword Tolstoy was well aware of this and used the hyperboloid as a symbol of artistic exaggeration.)
Garin uses the ray ruthlessly first to aid Rolling’s capitalist schemes and then to further his own fascistic plan for world domination. Once he gains control of Rolling’s wealth he uses it to occupy a small Pacific island and drill down to the magma belt in search of gold. When the gold, in huge quantities, is recovered to the surface, Garin uses it to destroy the economy of the United States.
The novel starts in Petrograd and the scene shifts to Paris, Germany, a yacht at sea, the Soviet Far East and other locations. The story is accompanied by technical details and sketches which even today seem quite plausible by popular SF standards and must have seemed more so in 1925 when our knowledge of physics and the earth’s crust was less advanced. Tolstoy’s education was engineering-based.
The hardbacked edition of GARIN which I obtained has unusual full-page colour illustrations, most of which are rather good, being painted in a vigorous modern and in one case decidedly art-deco style. (Artist unknown).

In contrast to Zamyatin’s WE (1920), which most SF fans these days would find rather tough going, both Tolstoy’s novels, despite their age, are highly readable, full of tension and spectacle, with rather larger than life characters and the kind of technical details that these days would be labelled as cyberpunk.
Though written in the 1920’s, GARIN accurately foretold the rise of the likes of Hitler and Mussolini and the Japanese warlords. Reading this novel, one is reminded more than a little of Michael Moorcock’s ‘Byzantium’ novels in which the characters and the ambience are not too dissimilar.
As befits Soviet novels of the 1920’s they are written from a perspective which embraces socialism with enthusiasm and attacks capitalism and fascism. The socialist perspective is a novelty these days; but one should after all reflect that while socialism eventually failed in the East, capitalism has yet to show any success in improving the lot of ordinary Russians.
Unfortunately neither of these novels is currently in print in the UK. I have not been able to ascertain if Raduga are still operating in Russia.
Apparently GARIN was published in the USA as THE DEATH BOX and an out-of-print UK edition of AELITA exists. But anyone wanting to swap books with Eastern European fans might well enquire there.

AELITA, Raduga Publishers, 17 Zubovsky Boulevard, Moscow, CIS.,1991, ISBN 5-05-003454-X
ENGINEER GARIN AND HIS DEATH RAY, Raduga, 1987, ISBN 5-05-001176-0

Self Editing for Fiction Writers

Self editing for fiction writers cover Self Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne & Dave King, Morrow, 280pp.
Subtitled ‘How to edit yourself into print,’ this is a book written by two professional editors to help writers apply their editing techniques to the writer’s own work.
Chapters on dialogue, exposition, point of view, interior monologue and other techniques show you what a professional editor would work on to perfect your manuscript.
Each point is illustrated with examples, many drawn from the hundreds of books Browne and King have edited.
I found the book very useful for helping me grasp concepts that are not easy to pin down, and to see how my efforts could be improved.
Why edit? Any manuscript will benefit from editing. Nowadays publishing houses are unable to devote much effort to editing a book before publication, with the result that a strong manuscript will be published as-is, and a flawed manuscript with potential will be rejected.
Some writers pay a professional editor to look over their MS before they attempt to get it published, but this while worth doing is an expensive exercise. Better to have a go yourself before considering this route. Why pay for editing you can do yourself?

Backyard Astronomy

Lidl supermarket telescope
£70 telescope kit
I have an interest in amateur astronomy, which I have pursued on and off since childhood. Lots of others have felt the same, often inspired by popular TV programs. There is something about having a look for oneself that is hard to duplicate indoors.
On the other hand, many people dabble in amateur astronomy, then give it up almost at once. Why should this be? One reason is that what you can see from your backyard does not measure up to the amazing photos taken at major observatories or from space. Another is that a lot of the equipment sold to amateurs is neither of good quality nor particularly suitable. The sorry fact is that good quality astronomical equipment varies in cost between expensive and eye-wateringly expensive, and many telescopes or “starter scopes” are sold on the basis of cheapness. Starter-scope mountings, for instance, are almost always too wobbly.
Several of the desirable qualities of a telescope (performance, cost, size, ease of use) conflict with each other. So how are you, as a vaguely interested person, to navigate your way through this minefield? Possibly not by visiting a telescope store, where you will be confronted by telescopes of all shapes, sizes, designs and prices. Think about what you want the telescope to do, and how much you are prepared to spend. Less than £100? Same price as a new i-pad or smartphone? Same price as a used car? Any optical aid for looking at the night sky is a lot better than none, but with the cruder instruments you will soon run out of interesting objects to view.
How are you going to use it? Most likely, keep it indoors and haul it outside on a clear night. That imposes constraints on size and weight. How much time are you prepared to spend setting up the thing every time you use it? If the answer is “two minutes” you might be wasting your money on one of the more sophisticated mountings.
The mounting, you say? That’s another specialist, and potentially expensive subject, which I’ll return to later.
Where do you live? If like most of us, you live in a town, you can still discover many objects in the night sky, but you will be looking at small bright objects rather than extended dim ones, which has a bearing on your choice of telescope.
Of the designs commonly available the ‘refractor’ conforms most closely to the layman’s idea of what a telescope looks like. In small sizes (under 100mm aperture) these are the obvious choice, but as size increases they become expensive, then eye-wateringly expensive and too long and heavy to be carried. Then there is the Newtonian, which has a mirror at the bottom of the tube and an eyepiece at the top on one side. The prime advantage of these is that, size for size (aperture), these are the cheapest of all the designs, and less bulky and heavy than a refractor.
The ‘Maksutov’ is a modern design which uses both lenses and mirrors to form a very short telescope with an eyepiece at the back. Despite its looks, this like the refractor, is a ‘long focus’ telescope suitable for looking at small bright objects. The compact form makes it very convenient for keeping indoors and hauling out on a clear evening, or even transporting by car.
Be wary of the various ‘short focus’ designs, as these are more of a specialist scope for astrophotography or looking at wide starfields, and are more prone to optical problems than the ‘long focus’ designs.
Mountings – the ‘alt-azimuth’ mounting is one whose function the layman will at once understand, as it allows the telescope to be pointed up and down and from side to side. It is also quick to set up. The ‘equatorial’ is tilted over to align with the earth’s axis, so that to compensate for the earth’s rotation the telescope only needs to be moved on one axis, (an action which can be motorised). Once you have tried observing for yourself, the advantage will be obvious, and it is also essential for long-exposure photography.
Both varieties of mounting are now available with electronic assistance in the form of built-in computers and motors which allow you to find objects by selecting them from a list on the handset, typing in their co-ordinates, or even clicking on a list on your laptop. This is a great advance allowing you quickly to locate objects invisible to the naked eye. All models will track objects once found. You can even find planets in broad daylight. If you can afford such a system, why would you settle for less? Why put up with the frustration of being unable to find objects that are not bright and obvious? The downside is the increased setup time, and for computerised heavy-duty equatorial mounts, the cost.
If you can afford one, I would recommend a ‘Maksutov’ telescope on an alt-azimuth electronic computerised mounting as your starter scope. Examples are available for under £400, which might seem expensive compared with some of the scopes available. But in terms of “astronomical objects viewable per pound (or dollar) spent” it is better value than apparently cheaper telescope kits, and in this price range you will bypass much of the rubbish.
An expert’s view

Moving on
Once you have your first scope, what next? An 8 inch Newtonian on a EQ-5 mounting seems a popular purchase, judging by the numbers of new and used kits on offer. An 8″ Newtonian is a lot of telescope for the money and the EQ-5 mounting is a good rigid one. I would not recommend this as a first purchase lest you find that it’s too big to handle and after the first flush of enthusiasm has worn off you can’t find much to look at (without a costly computerised mounting). If you got the basic manual mount, a tracking motor is around £85 and a full computerising kit another £300. Pointed in the right direction, an 8″ should show more detail on planets and fainter deep-space objects than a smaller instrument. With a solid equatorial mounting, ventures into photography are a possibility.

The Vogler Memorandum

Book iconIn the 1970s, Christopher Vogler, who was familiar with Joseph Campbell’s seminal book “The Hero With a Thousand faces” believed that he saw Joseph Campbell’s ideas on story structure being put to work in the first of the Star Wars movies, and wrote a term paper on the subject.
Later, around 1985, he took time off work (when working as a story consultant in the movie industry), and spent a week with a friend going through movie videotapes and identifying the mythic elements that made these films successful. Vogler drafted a seven-page memorandum which he handed to story analyst friends and to Disney executives. Reaction was muted, but the memo spread around the industry, even being plagiarized so that Vogler had to assert his name as the original author. This resulted in Vogler being called and offered a new job.
The Memo is quoted in full here.
The memo grew into The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler (2007) a popular screenwriting textbook.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Book icon The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949) Joseph Campbell’s seminal book on comparative mythology discussed his theory of the archetypal hero’s journey found in many of the world’s mythologies. In other words, all myths are basically the same story.
In a well-known quote from the introduction to The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell summarized the monomyth:
A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.
As proposed by Campbell, the hero’s Journey has the following twelve stages:

  1. ) The ordinary World – the hero is introduced in his home setting.
  2. ) The Call to Adventure – the hero is confronted with a problem
  3. ) Refusal of the Call – the hero is reluctant
  4. ) Meeting with the Mentor – often these stories contain a wise older adviser
  5. ) Crossing the Threshold – the hero enters a new strange region
  6. ) Tests, Allies and Enemies – the hero is tested and finds friends (and enemies)
  7. ) Approach – the hero reaches a dangerous place
  8. ) The Ordeal – the hero faces a deadly situation. Often it looks as if he’s not going to survive.
  9. ) The Reward – having survived, the hero gets the elixir, magic sword, knowledge or whatever
  10. ) The Road Back – hero starts back, chased by vengeful forces, more incidents
  11. ) The Resurrection – hero emerges from the special world, maybe after another near-death experience
  12. ) Return with the Elixir – hero returns to his world with the elixir, magic sword, or knowledge.

According to Campbell, myths may not contain all these stages. The myths he drew on for his book include the stories of Osiris, Prometheus, the Buddha, Moses, and Jesus, although Campbell cites many other classic myths from many cultures which rely upon this basic structure.
The resemblance of the ‘hero’s Journey’ to a typical fantasy epic may be notable, but the contention is that the ideas are equally applicable to other kinds of story. Though if one is plotting another kind of story (e.g. a romance), most of the terms will need to be replaced by more appropriate equivalents.
In recent years, Campbell’s Hero’s Journey theories have become more widely disseminated, partly as a result of a well-known memo by Vogler which circulated in the movie industry, and have been studied by film-makers, TV script writers and others interested in telling stories. The popular movie ‘Star Wars’ for instance, was claimed to be influenced by Campbell, and an image from the film appeared on the cover of a reprint of the book.
Other commentators have produced their own variants of Campbell’s ideas, sometimes with differing numbers of stages, or dividing the story into Acts. Extended discussion