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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Anton B
    May 8, 2014 @ 3:15 am

    I'm genuinely amazed that anyone has expressed a difficulty with following Last War in Albion. I mean really? Or is this very post itself some elaborate meta-joke that I'm not getting Phil? If so well…you got me!

    Seriously it's all seemed pretty straightforward to me so far, particularly compared to some of your TARDIS eruditorum entries.(coughWilliam Blakecough).

    I guess I just accepted the serial/cliffhanger structure bookended by incomplete lines of thought as the way you'd decided to do things rather than as a 'problem' of any kind which was making my enjoyment of the ongoing piece 'difficult'.

    Look, if 'How to Read The Last War in Albion' is a post-modern joke I'll hold up my hands to being stupid if someone can explain it to me with a 'How to read 'How to Read The Last War in Albion''


  2. ferret
    May 8, 2014 @ 3:22 am

    Same here, and to be honest the serial/cliffhanger thing is less a hindrance and more a help to remind me of where we were at last time and (as if it were likely to be a problem) to ensure I haven't missed an entry.


  3. jane
    May 8, 2014 @ 3:29 am

    Some of the best long sentences I've read recently can be found in Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, just exquisitely constructed, often taking up the entire paragraph and the bulk of that page's real estate, though given that The Goldfinch is told in the first person, which makes the narrator front and center in the presentation of the narrative, so, of course, this king of writing becomes a reflection not just of the book's structure (which is long and winding and filled with peculiar details on art and furniture reconstruction, the "gloss" versus the "eidos", rather reminiscent of Parmenides's distinction between "appearance" and "being", which is not to say that the two aren't mutually excluded from being one and the same) but of the main character's psychology, which is really the crux of the story, and more recently of literary stories in general, where the attempt to answer The Question of "Who Are You?" has become just as paramount as describing the world around us, an intention that also, perhaps not coincidentally, makes for an apt description of the Revival of Doctor Who, and particularly the Moffat era, where that Question is asked, in some form, every single episode.


  4. Neo Tuxedo
    May 8, 2014 @ 4:02 am

    an episode that starts with Sansa and ends with Arya has a very different shape than one that starts with Jon Snow and ends with Daenerys, for instance, and makes a different commentary on what the world looks like.

    For me, that comment would be "There are characters who are not standing waist-deep in a trench full of shit, watching sixteen hundred jackals fuck each other to death, but GRRM isn't interested in writing about them. He's interested in demonstrating that Westeros is uglier than most places. It's a cruel and shallow blood trench where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs for the crime of being good men."


  5. elvwood
    May 8, 2014 @ 5:14 am

    I spotted what you were doing with the cliffhanger thing (though not straight away) and have had no difficulty following TLWiA, but where this post is useful is in glimpsing a bit of the psychology behind how you write – for instance, how some parts that I took to be just going with the flow are in fact a conscious choice. Well, perhaps useful is the wrong word. Interesting, anyway.


  6. Froborr
    May 8, 2014 @ 5:43 am

    I'm genuinely amazed that anyone has expressed a difficulty with following Last War in Albion.

    I'm on the record as finding it borderline incomprehensible. I've pretty much given up on trying to follow it.


  7. Froborr
    May 8, 2014 @ 5:47 am

    This may be extraordinarily helpful. I'm going to go back to the beginning of the War and see if reading it with the knowledge that it's a slide show, not an essay, helps.

    (I quibble slightly with your description of Game of Thrones; most episodes make at least an effort to find some common thematic thread between their scenes, and in general the quality of the episode is predicted by how successful that effort is.)


  8. Jack
    May 8, 2014 @ 6:27 am

    Having read the entire archive in one go yesterday-I was bored, found this place, and got caught up with it-I can definitely say that the work writ large has enough narrative gravity to suck a reader with any interest in the subject in. But I'm a guy who has Supergods and the complete collection of William Blake poetry literally right next to each other in my collection, so I might not be the most unbiased judge of the material.


  9. Toby Brown
    May 8, 2014 @ 6:37 am

    I've been meaning to ask this for a while now, and this seems like as good a place as any. I'm not really into comics so haven't particularly been following tLWiA, but am familiar with a few bits (Sandman, some of Alan Moore's stuff). Would I be able to just jump in on the relevant blog post, or is context important?


  10. Kit Power
    May 8, 2014 @ 6:38 am

    D1 of my novel has a 500+ word chapter that is a single sentence. I'm pretty proud of it.


  11. quislibet
    May 8, 2014 @ 6:47 am

    With Tartt's classics background, another factor for her might well be the way Greek and Latin prose writers structured their paragraph-long periodic sentences. I often find my prose style starts creeping that way when I'm being academic. (Even with short sentences, I insert parentheticals like mad.) Obviously I'm mostly resisting right now.


  12. encyclops
    May 8, 2014 @ 7:00 am

    Jon Snow is a good man and he's still alive. Sansa and Dany are good women (for now) and still alive (for now). Arya…probably isn't going to be "good" for much longer, but you could argue she's likely to serve up some righteous justice.

    It's a long series. Nobody is going to live happily ever after right away. Give it time. Or, if it's not your thing, don't.


  13. Elizabeth Sandifer
    May 8, 2014 @ 7:06 am

    I would hope that within a given entry I too have paragraph transitions. πŸ˜‰


  14. Elizabeth Sandifer
    May 8, 2014 @ 7:13 am

    I know I have readers who have read little to none of the material and quite enjoy Last War in Albion. I wouldn't say that context is unimportant – I'm sure it's a more rewarding experience if you've read the material in question. But equally, virtually nobody is going to have read everything I cover, and I do write with that in mind.

    Short version – are you the sort of person who enjoys reading reviews of movies you haven't seen, or otherwise learn about works of art by reading criticism about them? If so, Last War in Albion will probably work just fine for you.

    Equally… try it and see if you like it. The Captain Britain stuff currently posting is a solid jumping on point – read the last two entries and then the one that's going up tomorrow and see what you think.


  15. Froborr
    May 8, 2014 @ 7:59 am

    Transitions, sure, but that doesn't mean that paragraph six is thematically connected to paragraph two of the same essay. Game of Thrones expends considerable effort to try to create a single thematic thread running through all the scenes within a single episode, is what I'm attempting to say.


  16. BerserkRL
    May 8, 2014 @ 8:16 am

    One of my favourite sentences ever written comes from John Locke's 1693 Thoughts on Education:

    "The age is not likely to want instances of this kind, which should be made land-marks to him, that by the disgraces, diseases, beggary, and shame of hopeful young men, thus brought to ruin, he may be precautioned, and made see how those join in the contempt and neglect of them that are undone, who, by pretences of friendship and respect, lead them into it, and help to prey upon
    them whilst they are undoing; that he may see, before he buys it by a too dear experience, that those who persuade him not to follow the sober advices he has received from his governors, and the counsel of his own reason, which they call being governed by others, do it only that they may have the government of him
    themselves, and make him believe he goes like a man of himself by his own conduct, and for his own pleasure, when in truth he is wholly as a child, led by them into their vices, which but serve their purposes."


  17. BerserkRL
    May 8, 2014 @ 8:19 am

    I find Arya much more virtuous than Sansa.


  18. Neo Tuxedo
    May 8, 2014 @ 8:26 am

    Not necessarily in order:
    * Jon Snow is good and not in Westeros.
    * Dany is good and not in Westeros.
    * Arya is in Westeros and, when I quit reading the series about a third of the way into A Clash of Kings, was just beginning the process of having the goodness systematically ground out of her, because virtues are a weakness that will only get you killed, and fear cuts deeper than swords, and the moment you trust anyone is the moment the countdown begins to when that person will stab you in the intestines, and fear cuts deeper than swords, and the degree to which you trust them is the depth to which they'll sink the knife and the amount they twist it, and fear cuts deeper than swords, and the only way to survive is to do unto others before they can think about doing unto you, and fear cuts fucking deeper than swords.
    * Sansa is good, and in Westeros, and from what I hear struggling desperately to reconcile the two.


  19. Nyq Only
    May 8, 2014 @ 9:44 am

    I read A Golden Thread in January. Wonder Woman isn't a character I knew a lot about other than the basics and the TV series – and the book was very effective at outlining the history of the character for somebody who didn't really know a lot about it (or at least somebody who didn't know a lot for a person who does read superhero comic books).
    With Last War in Albion I think you really have to know a fair bit already. I don't mean every detail of the chronology but at least a good sense of the broad arc of the narrative and the major players (both people and publications). The eventual hostility of Moore and Morrison is assumed background knowledge as is the 'deconstruction' era of superhero comic books, the rise of the graphic novel and the British invasion.
    It is rather like somebody discussing the cause of World War 1 – it would be even harder to follow if you didn't know that it was leading up to World War 1 (and that World War 1 would lead to the Russian Revolution, the collapse of the imperial age and presage the rise of Hitler and WW2 etc)


  20. Nyq Only
    May 8, 2014 @ 9:49 am

    All the ice zombie things are actually quite nice people.


  21. encyclops
    May 8, 2014 @ 10:03 am

    All four of them are from Westeros and are almost certain to come back. If you quit reading halfway through the second book, where are you getting your information? The TV show? Wikipedia? Hearsay?

    About Arya in particular, I think you're letting your desire to lampoon the story outpace your knowledge of what actually happens in it. Arya's situation has changed quite a bit since a third of the way through the second book in the series. I'm not sure it's more optimistic than your description (though I think it is, and I tend to agree with BerserkRL about her which is why I put "good" in quotes), but it's a great deal more interesting.

    Westeros is ugly. I don't know if it's uglier than Meereen or Yunkai. I don't know if it's uglier than, oh, Gotham City. Or medieval England. Or the real world, which is as far as I can see also a place where thieves and pimps run free and good men do sometimes die like dogs because honor alone will not help you survive.

    I don't think you'd like the rest of the books more than you liked the 1300ish pages you've read so far. Personally I wasn't hooked until A Clash of Kings, and I'll be the first to say that I think the most recent two books have gotten rather uglier than they needed to be, but when people complain about all the bad things that happen to nice people in Game of Thrones, all I hear is that they'd be better off reading and watching something else. I don't think that reflects poorly on those people, nor on GRRM.


  22. timber-munki
    May 8, 2014 @ 2:46 pm

    Part of me wants Game Of Thrones to be the biggest shaggy dog story in history and in response to the nerdrage such a revelation would bring GRRM point out the name of the youngest Stark dire wolf…


  23. Anton B
    May 8, 2014 @ 9:46 pm

    So the 'difficulty' comes from the fact that some people are unaware that the subject of the essay is the perceived feud between Moore and Morrison? Despite the fact that Phil mentions it in nearly every post.

    I mean I've enjoyed reading some of Phil's essays on video gaming and puzzle solving while having zero knowledge of either subject. I find the concept of not being able to read something without prior knowledge of the subject just …difficult to understand.


  24. BerserkRL
    May 9, 2014 @ 6:24 am

    The fact that Sansa is going through hell she doesn't deserve shouldn't blind us to the fact that she is weak, cowardly, vain, frivolous, disloyal (as when she lies in court about what happened with Arya and Joffrey), dishonest (ditto), and prone to wishful thinking. I'm hoping she will grow as a person but she's shown little sign of it so far. Arya may be ruthless and obsessed with vengeance in a way that a truly virtuous person wouldn't be, but she outscores Sansa on all of the above points.


  25. BerserkRL
    May 9, 2014 @ 6:27 am

    Oh, and I left out Sansa's betraying her father to Cersei. Of course she didn't know what would happen; still, more disloyalty and wishful thinking.


  26. encyclops
    May 9, 2014 @ 9:02 am

    I agree with everything you've said about Sansa. I pity her at this point more than I loathe her, but she is by far my least favorite member of the Stark family. I put her in with the "good" group because so far she hasn't done anything (I can recall) that is baldly evil, the lie you mention being the closest call there. She's someone who is not beyond redemption, is the point, whereas so many of the other characters, in the eyes of people who react to the series the way Neo Tuxedo describes, are.

    Don't get me wrong, man. I'm Team Arya all the way.


  27. liminal fruitbat
    May 9, 2014 @ 9:49 am

    I am utterly confused by the above opinions of Sansa – why do people focus on her being a sheltered eleven-year-old girl surrounded by dangerous people and then ignore everything that came after? All her faults are shared by her father, but he doesn't get nearly as much hate…

    (Also, saying she betrayed Ned to Cersei is just bullshit. Littlefinger betrayed Ned. Sansa just revealed his travel plans for her and Arya, which given that this was pre-AFFC mostly-competent Cersei, with Littlefinger on her side, probably didn't change things.)

    And anyone who calls Sansa weak at this point in the books… I don't know, maybe they read the version of Harry Potter where he's at all admirable or heroic. They didn't read the same ones as me. [/rant]


  28. encyclops
    May 9, 2014 @ 10:14 am

    I am utterly confused by the argument you're making, but that's not a new feeling for me. πŸ™‚

    I think you're suggesting, among other things, that Harry Potter is kind of a tool. I'd agree with that. I'm Team Book-Hermione.

    Sansa's now out of the place where she was in over her head — it's not like her vaunted silver-tongued quick-witted well-connected husband fared much better in the same environment — and into a situation where yeah, she's still in a fix, but there are fewer Sontarans about and she has a ghost of a chance of coming out of this on top. It's do or die time for Sansa, I think. If she doesn't do, but loses her head figuratively and literally, she might pick up some of the sympathy her dad earned the hard way.

    Of course, all of this depends on your taste and what kinds of characters you sympathize with. I mean, there are people who love Jaime. Whatever!


  29. Nyq Only
    May 9, 2014 @ 12:51 pm

    Not the bare fact that Moore and Morrison famously don't get on. Indeed as things currently stand the Last War isn't an account of a celebrity falling out. I'm sure there will be elements of that but it clearly isn't intended to be about a beardy guy and a baldy guy bickering.
    The War is a war over territory – the comics and the ownership of comics and the ownership of creativity.


  30. Daru
    May 10, 2014 @ 4:09 am

    I personally find reading TLWiA pretty straightforward. But I do have a lot of background in comics reading – even if I did not I would likely find it fascinating (I still do!) I have not tended to deeply read or comment on the blog posts, more down to issues of time as I work a lot and when I am not working I often am off to the outdoors.

    I am excited about reading the first volume when it comes out! Will there be any of the pictures?

    Glad to see another lover of long sentences.


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