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Re: [mythsoc] Recent Fantasy

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  • David S. Bratman
    ... I disagree. The Tolkiens and Dunsanys are far between, and always have been. It s not the bestselling fantasy which is supporting such few geniuses as
    Message 1 of 17 , Jun 30, 2000
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      Bill wrote:

      > Now...having said all that...I also thank whatever fantasy gods that
      > be for Eddings, Jordan, Brooks, Goodkind,etc. If not for them, I doubt that
      > publishers would be printing much fantasy at all. I credit Brooks and
      > Eddings in saving the Ballantine Adult Fantasy line. Jordan generated the
      > interest and revenue that led St Martins to print more hardcovers like
      > deLint's.
      > In the best of all possible worlds, we would be constantly treated
      > to writing like Tolkiens, or Lewis, Morris, Dunsany....but life is not
      > perfect. I'll tolerate some brain candy to be able to get to the dessert.

      I disagree. The Tolkiens and Dunsanys are far between, and always have
      been. It's not the bestselling fantasy which is supporting such few
      geniuses as there are, because the audience for the bestsellers is not
      looking for that kind of writing. (Even Tolkien looks dull and
      old-fashioned to some of them.) There are some writers of potential
      quality who have even been discouraged from pursuing it because of the
      pressure from bestsellers.

      As for midrange writers like de Lint, I suspect they'd sell better if
      they didn't have so much competition. While few readers of Jordan and
      Eddings would perhaps turn to Dunsany if everything else retroactively
      ceased to exist, I suspect many of them would turn to de Lint.

      My other complaint is that the more "brain candy" there is, the harder it
      is to slog through it trying to find the dessert.


      Diane wrote about Jordan:

      > I *knew* I was in for a long haul ... He needed to take out the
      > incidental materials and "cut to the chase."

      As Tolkien is not exactly a "cut to the chase" author either, I suspect
      there is more to Jordan's problem than this.


      David Bratman
      - not responsible for the following advertisement -
    • Diane Joy Baker
      ... From: Mary Kay Kare To: Sent: Friday, June 30, 2000 11:57 AM Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Recent Fantasy ... Fire* ... of
      Message 2 of 17 , Jul 1 6:46 AM
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        ----- Original Message -----
        From: Mary Kay Kare <kare@...>
        To: <mythsoc@egroups.com>
        Sent: Friday, June 30, 2000 11:57 AM
        Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Recent Fantasy


        > Diane Joy Baker wrote:
        > >
        > > I'm chompin' at the bit for the next installment of Martin's *Ice and
        Fire*
        > > series. When the second one came out, I went to an autographing session
        of
        > > his in Lexington, and got both the first and second volumes autographed.
        I
        > > was very grateful that Martin's handlers decided to put some tours in
        > > midwastern stores rather than just hugging the coast lines (esp.
        > > California). Some of us readers do exist outside the Golden State, you
        > > know!
        >
        > Err--Martin's handlers? I don't think you understand how book tours
        > are set up. What usually happens is that the publisher contacts
        > bookstores and asks who wants to foot the bill for an appearance by X
        > at their store. It's almost always up to the stores to choose whether
        > or not they want someone there.
        >
        I appreciate the education. The term "handlers" refers to those people who
        contact and arrange bookstore tours on behalf of Martin. I am assuming that
        Martin does not do this himself. So the "handlers" would be the
        blisher. ---djb.
      • Steve Schaper
        ... Tolkien s worldview is teleological, and Jordan s is cyclic. Jordan literally -can t- cut to the chase, because there isn t one, so to speak.
        Message 3 of 17 , Jul 1 6:49 AM
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          At 11:24 PM -0400 6/30/00, David S. Bratman wrote:
          >
          >As Tolkien is not exactly a "cut to the chase" author either, I suspect
          >there is more to Jordan's problem than this.
          >


          Tolkien's worldview is teleological, and Jordan's is cyclic. Jordan
          literally -can't- cut to the chase, because there isn't one, so to
          speak.

          ====================================

          sschaper@...
          members.delphi.com/sschaper/web/sschaper.html
          ====================================
        • David S. Bratman
          ... E.R. Eddison s worldview, in =The Worm Ouroborous=, is cyclic in the sense that I recall Jordan s is, and that didn t stop him from cutting to the chase
          Message 4 of 17 , Jul 1 9:20 AM
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            On Sat, 1 Jul 2000, Steve Schaper wrote:

            > Tolkien's worldview is teleological, and Jordan's is cyclic. Jordan
            > literally -can't- cut to the chase, because there isn't one, so to
            > speak.

            E.R. Eddison's worldview, in =The Worm Ouroborous=, is cyclic in the
            sense that I recall Jordan's is, and that didn't stop him from "cutting
            to the chase" (eventually).

            Tolkien was also cyclic as well as teleological. "Always after a defeat
            and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again," says
            Gandalf. Nor, Tolkien makes clear, is this the last time, though it is
            the last time for Sauron the individual. Tolkien even began a story,
            "The New Shadow", about the return of evil only a lifetime after the War
            of the Ring, and though he abandoned it, it was not because he'd changed
            his mind about this.

            David Bratman
            - not responsible for the following cycle -
          • Bill
            Jordan s view, in my opinion, is strictly mercenary. The series was originally only to be 5 books. He makes the bestseller list. The series will now be 8
            Message 5 of 17 , Jul 1 9:57 AM
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              Jordan's view, in my opinion, is strictly mercenary.
              The series was originally only to be 5 books.
              He makes the bestseller list.
              The series will now be 8 books..
              He continues to make the bestseller list...
              Oh...make that 11 books...
              I may be jaded here, but the man is making big money for both himself
              and Tor. He has all sorts of incentive to be as circuitous as he wishes.
              There have been stories in the past that he tends to churn out the
              pages very slowly. One before the last book said he was so long in
              finishing it that Tor put him up in a hotel in NYC and had each day's
              writing output picked up on that day.
              Let me clarify what I meant earlier. It's my memory that in the early
              seventies the fantasy genre was in decline. The Ballantine Adult Fantasy
              series as edited by Lin Carter was for all intent and purposes dead. I
              have said before how much that series influenced me, introducing me to
              Dunsany, Morris, Cabell, Smith, and others. But except, perhaps, for
              Kurtz's original Deryni trilogy, none of it was a commercial success.
              While we as readers may not care if a book we love hits the marks the
              publishers set for it, they do. Failure to sell a certain amount of
              copies will determine whether or not they will keep a book in print on
              their backlists.The books I loved didn't make that figure,and that,
              possibly combined with whatever negotiations with heirs needed for
              reprints, meant those books went out of print from Ballantine.
              DAW books started up around this time, but Wollheim used his
              Ace Books contacts and writers like Moorcock,Norton, and MZB were the
              foundation. McCaffrey was Ballantine's big name, and Zelazny turned
              out Amber books for Avon. Those were the big names. Pickings were
              slim after that.
              Then DelRey revived the Adult Fantasy line with some books and
              writers that are not very memorable and with the Deryni series. They
              sold enough books to keep it going and then along came Brooks and

              Eddings. NYT bestselling fantasy. Yes, MZB had done it once. These
              guys did it again and again. Other publishers went hunting and came
              up with Feist and Williams and Jordan. They made money. They looked
              more, and there was Goodkind and Jones and Martin.
              They also establshed some midlist writers, like Carroll, Hoffman,
              Powers, DeLint, Tepper...and so on....
              Maybe we'd have found all of them eventually.Maybe not.
              But I seriously doubt the publishers would have taken a close look
              without the vision of another Jordan or some other name floating in
              their heads.
              But as I said,maybe I'm jaded....
            • David S. Bratman
              Bill W - Assuming that your latest comments are in response to mine - the current fantasy boom is not what s keeping the classics in print. In fact, many of
              Message 6 of 17 , Jul 2 6:03 AM
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                Bill W -

                Assuming that your latest comments are in response to mine - the current
                fantasy boom is not what's keeping the "classics" in print. In fact,
                many of the classics are not in print, except sporadically, the way they
                always were. A boom might be what generates a given printing, but it
                doesn't affect the overall situation. For instance, there have been
                three, I think, paperback editions of Eddison over the years (one in the
                60s, one in the early 80s, and one in the 90s), but none of them stayed
                in print.

                As for new books that become classics, these get published or not
                regardless of whether there's a boom, because they don't appeal much to
                boom readers. The 1940s-1950s was not a good period for fantasy in
                general literature, and yet both Peake and Tolkien managed to get
                published. If, somehow, the current boom had gotten started without them
                and had taken its current form, they are both way too outside the formula
                (yes, Tolkien is outside the formula inspired by his own works) to be
                successful as they stand from a publisher aiming at riding the boom.
                They would have to be published more in its spite, which means they could
                just as easily be published if there was no boom at all, which in fact
                they were.

                Here's a timeline of the Adult Fantasy Series, in case there's any
                fuzziness in your mind about dates:

                1965: Ballantine publishes the authorized pb of LOTR, to counteract the
                unauthorized Ace edition of a few months earlier, which in turn rode the
                wave of a rising popularity of the hardcovers over the ten years they'd
                existed.

                1967-69. During the height of the Tolkien fad (after it his sales never
                dried up, the books merely ceased to be faddish), Ballantine tries to
                catch this wave by publishing pbs of Peake and Eddison, plus one new
                fantasy, _The Last Unicorn_ by Peter Beagle.

                1969-74. This is the period of the formal Ballantine Adult Fantasy
                Series (the "Unicorn's head" books) edited by Lin Carter. It included
                dozens of classics, most of them in their first paperbacks, plus a few
                new books by Evangeline Walton, Sanders Ann Laubenthal, and Katherine
                Kurtz (the first Deryni trilogy). Carter was let go at the start of 1974
                and a few more books dribbled in during the course of the year. This was
                not because fantasy had ceased to sell but because the vein of classics
                had been tapped out, and also because Ballantine had been sold and the
                new owners didn't wish to pursue this policy. (Daw Books was founded in
                1972, but it was largely a continuation of what Wollheim had been doing
                at Ace.)

                1974-76. Lester del Rey begins to run Ballantine's fantasy department,
                publishing a few books, notably Gordon Dickson's _The Dragon and the
                George_ and a fourth Deryni book, _Camber of Culdi_, under the griffin
                logo (Ballantine "chicken head" fantasies).

                1977. Founding of the Del Rey imprint under Ballantine, together with
                the publication of Terry Brooks's _The Sword of Shannara_ and Stephen
                Donaldson's first _Chronicles of Thomas Covenant_, the first blockbuster
                genre fantasies, plus the first Xanth book by Piers Anthony, first of the
                endless series fantasies (Kurtz and others being much slower off the
                ground at endlessness).

                David Bratman
                - not responsible for the following advertisement -
              • David S. Bratman
                I should add that I don t disagree with Bill s thesis that some of the midrange writers, like de Lint, wouldn t have gotten the kind of publication they did if
                Message 7 of 17 , Jul 2 6:09 AM
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                  I should add that I don't disagree with Bill's thesis that some of the
                  midrange writers, like de Lint, wouldn't have gotten the kind of
                  publication they did if it hadn't been for the boom. De Lint had a small
                  press of his own before he became a major-list novelist, and that's
                  probably where he would have stayed if, indeed, he had taken to writing
                  large novels at all, had there been no fantasy boom.

                  However, that tells us only about how they began. If the top bestselling
                  authors were to disappear now, and especially if replacements weren't
                  dredged up, I think de Lint's sales would go up to partially fill the gap.

                  David Bratman
                  - not responsible for the following advertisement -
                • Bill
                  Hi David! ... This was the point I was trying to make. For years after the Lin Carter line ended, most of the classics he reprinted went out of print again.
                  Message 8 of 17 , Jul 2 10:12 AM
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                    Hi David!

                    >Assuming that your latest comments are in response to mine - the current
                    >fantasy boom is not what's keeping the "classics" in print. In fact,
                    >many of the classics are not in print, except sporadically, the way they
                    >always were. A boom might be what generates a given printing, but it
                    >doesn't affect the overall situation. For instance, there have been
                    >three, I think, paperback editions of Eddison over the years (one in the
                    >60s, one in the early 80s, and one in the 90s), but none of them stayed
                    >in print.
                    This was the point I was trying to make. For years after the Lin
                    Carter line ended, most of the classics he reprinted went out of print
                    again. Only recently have some lesser publishers brought a few out and
                    DelRey recently reprinted two Dunsanys in trade paperback.

                    >
                    >Here's a timeline of the Adult Fantasy Series, in case there's any
                    >fuzziness in your mind about dates:

                    >1969-74. This is the period of the formal Ballantine Adult Fantasy
                    >Series (the "Unicorn's head" books) edited by Lin Carter. It included
                    >dozens of classics, most of them in their first paperbacks, plus a few
                    >new books by Evangeline Walton, Sanders Ann Laubenthal, and Katherine
                    >Kurtz (the first Deryni trilogy). Carter was let go at the start of 1974
                    >and a few more books dribbled in during the course of the year. This was
                    >not because fantasy had ceased to sell but because the vein of classics
                    >had been tapped out, and also because Ballantine had been sold and the
                    >new owners didn't wish to pursue this policy. (Daw Books was founded in
                    >1972, but it was largely a continuation of what Wollheim had been doing
                    >at Ace.)
                    Being in the book selling business for 12 years now, I still feel it
                    was lack of sales that persuaded the new owners not to continue it as it
                    was.

                    >1974-76. Lester del Rey begins to run Ballantine's fantasy department,
                    >publishing a few books, notably Gordon Dickson's _The Dragon and the
                    >George_ and a fourth Deryni book, _Camber of Culdi_, under the griffin
                    >logo (Ballantine "chicken head" fantasies).
                    As I said,a less than glorious period. Brian Daley and Robert Don
                    Hughes are some of the names I recall from this period. Only the Kurtz
                    is still on my bookshelves.

                    1977. Founding of the Del Rey imprint under Ballantine, together with
                    >the publication of Terry Brooks's _The Sword of Shannara_ and Stephen
                    >Donaldson's first _Chronicles of Thomas Covenant_, the first blockbuster
                    >genre fantasies, plus the first Xanth book by Piers Anthony, first of the
                    >endless series fantasies (Kurtz and others being much slower off the
                    >ground at endlessness).
                    Also the McKillip RiddleMaster books. A great time to haunt the sf
                    section of the bookstores.
                    Thanks for the timeline. My dates were off a bit but I think I had
                    the general events right.<g>

                    Bill
                  • Bill
                    If, somehow, the current boom had gotten started without them ... Hmm..I put this in a second email because I m puzzled a bit by it. The formula for most of
                    Message 9 of 17 , Jul 2 12:44 PM
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                      If, somehow, the current boom had gotten started without them
                      >and had taken its current form, they are both way too outside the formula
                      >(yes, Tolkien is outside the formula inspired by his own works) to be
                      >successful as they stand from a publisher aiming at riding the boom.

                      Hmm..I put this in a second email because I'm puzzled a bit by it.
                      The formula for most of the bestselling fantasys are so much Tolkienish
                      I fail to see why JRR would be outside it. You can draw up a chart
                      with all the Eddings, Shannara, Feist, Williams and Jordan series and
                      check off the similiarities to LoTR. I once used to amuse a friend with a
                      litany of "Gandalf begat Alannon, who begat Belgarath, who begat..." etc.
                      The wizard from the Dragonlance trilogy was in there too, but I forgot his
                      name. <g>
                      Even Donaldson could be said to follow in Tolkien's steps, except as the
                      anti-Tolkien.<g>.
                      Now, if by some publishing catastorphe (and no matter what we may think
                      about some of these series, their ceasing to be would be disastrous to the
                      genre and some publishers)they all vanished, De Lint might...MIGHT ..show
                      a minor blip in sales. But I doubt it, as much as I love his work. I've
                      tried to handsell his books to readers who were looking to read something
                      while chomping at the bit for Jordan's next installment. Mind you, I was
                      fairly sure it was a case of apples and oranges. I was right,in most cases.
                      On the other hand, I had great success selling GAME OF THRONES when it first
                      was published because I used a description from somewhere that called it
                      "The War of the Roses meets Tolkien". We sold 56 copies in a month, and led
                      the chain in sales for it.
                      If anything, we are about to enter another Tolkien influenced boom,if
                      my hunch is right. There is the Dungeons and Dragons movie possibly out
                      this fall.(Since there is a new rules system being released for the game
                      about the same time I think it's a safe assumption that it will be the
                      fall.) And of course LoTR due out the year after..

                      Bill W.
                    • LSolarion@aol.com
                      In a message dated 06/30/2000 8:30:06 PM Pacific Daylight Time, dbratman@genie.idt.net writes: ... The Saint Martin s Press rep who comes to my store gives me
                      Message 10 of 17 , Jul 2 5:31 PM
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                        In a message dated 06/30/2000 8:30:06 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
                        dbratman@... writes:

                        << Diane wrote about Jordan:

                        > I *knew* I was in for a long haul ... He needed to take out the
                        > incidental materials and "cut to the chase." >>

                        The Saint Martin's Press rep who comes to my store gives me occasional
                        gossippy tidbits about Jordan, who has been getting more and more coy about
                        how many books there are going to be. However, the rep says the upcoming
                        instalment, due in November, will advance the plot considerably. A lot is
                        going to happen, evidently, unlike what I've heard about the last one, which
                        I haven't read yet (I'm waiting until the whole series is done, and hoping I
                        live that long). Apparently, Jordan has been getting intimations of
                        impatience from his fans. Let's hope so.

                        Meanwhile, I'm really looking forward to the new George Martin!
                        Cheers,
                        Steve
                      • David S. Bratman
                        ... But it wasn t because fantasy, the genre, went into decline. ... Indeed. As I said, the vein of classics had been tapped out: the books had sold to those
                        Message 11 of 17 , Jul 2 5:38 PM
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                          On Sun, 2 Jul 2000, Bill wrote:

                          > This was the point I was trying to make. For years after the Lin
                          > Carter line ended, most of the classics he reprinted went out of print
                          > again. Only recently have some lesser publishers brought a few out and
                          > DelRey recently reprinted two Dunsanys in trade paperback.

                          But it wasn't because fantasy, the genre, went into decline.

                          > Being in the book selling business for 12 years now, I still feel it
                          > was lack of sales that persuaded the new owners not to continue it as it
                          > was.

                          Indeed. As I said, the vein of classics had been tapped out: the books
                          had sold to those who were interested, and weren't selling many more, and
                          Carter was beginning to run out of top-notch work that was a) available
                          to reprint and b) was in the specific subgenre in which he was
                          interested. When I said that fantasy had not ceased to sell, I meant
                          fantasy in general, not those books in particular. My main point was
                          that they _never_ sold in large quantities to the sort of people fueling
                          the fantasy boom now. This had nothing to do with whether there was a
                          fantasy boom on or not. The Unicorn's Head books were a prestige series
                          for Ballantine, which never sold particularly well.

                          > Also the McKillip RiddleMaster books. A great time to haunt the sf
                          > section of the bookstores.

                          The first two Riddle Master books, having already appeared in hardcover
                          from Atheneum, came out in Del Rey paperbacks the following year, 1978.
                          (The third book had not yet appeared at all: it came out the next year.)
                          Yes, Del Rey was still publishing some good fantasy then, and it's useful
                          to remember that.

                          David Bratman
                          - not responsible for the following advertisement -
                        • David S. Bratman
                          Bill - You need not convince me of the startling similarities between Tolkien and Donaldson, Eddings, etc. Nor is there any question whence these
                          Message 12 of 17 , Jul 2 5:46 PM
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                            Bill -

                            You need not convince me of the startling similarities between Tolkien
                            and Donaldson, Eddings, etc. Nor is there any question whence these
                            similarities.

                            But beyond that, a specific formula has grown up, out of this general
                            form, which Tolkien does not follow, and which makes him disappointing to
                            those who are expecting it.

                            Not being gifted with this mindset, it's difficult for me to describe it,
                            but among the stumbling-blocks which readers of this sort find in LOTR
                            are the very scanty and unsystematized use of magic, and the long
                            meandering opening section before the adventure really gets going, along
                            with various "slack" passages thereafter.

                            Don't take my word for it: ask your customers. Certainly Tolkien is still
                            popular among many, even the young, but you will also find many young
                            readers who've grown up on later fantasists and who find Tolkien very
                            difficult or uninteresting.

                            David Bratman
                            - not responsible for the following advertisement -
                          • David S. Bratman
                            Lisa - Since the panel description on the Chicon website reads J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are the best known of the group, but there were other Inklings
                            Message 13 of 17 , Aug 22, 2000
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                              Lisa -

                              Since the panel description on the Chicon website reads "J.R.R. Tolkien
                              and C.S. Lewis are the best known of the group, but there were other
                              Inklings too," it seems to me that what you're really on is a Charles
                              Williams panel. He's the real "other" Inkling, and the only other one
                              who wrote fantasy, so he's the one you should focus on. And it so
                              happens that since our book of Williams has actually been published, I'll
                              bring a copy along and you can show it off on the panel.

                              Sayers can also be mentioned, but she was a Friend Of, not an Inkling.
                              The other Inklings most worth mentioning, to an audience which doesn't
                              want the boring scholarly blither that I'd probably contribute if I were
                              a panelist, are:

                              W.H. Lewis - CSL's brother, author of some delightful volumes on French
                              history of the Louis XIV period (especially _The Splendid Century_) and a
                              superb diarist: selections of his diaries have been published under the
                              title _Brothers and Friends_, and are a good picture of CSL as well as
                              interesting in their own right.

                              Nevill Coghill - a literature professor at Oxford, he specialized in
                              drama and directed some notable Shakespeare productions, as well as
                              Richard Burton's film of Marlowe's _Doctor Faustus_; but to a literary
                              audience he should be most noted for his fine translation of Chaucer's
                              _Canterbury Tales_, in the Penguin edition.

                              Owen Barfield - somebody other than me will have to try to boil him into
                              a paragraph, but essentially he was a philosopher of language whose
                              thought deeply influenced both Lewis and Tolkien and enriched their
                              work. The Barfield books to start with are _Poetic Diction_ and _Saving
                              the Appearances_: the latter in particular will be appreciated by anybody
                              who was interested by Julian Jaynes's _The Origin of Consciousness in the
                              Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind_. Barfield's influence on Tolkien is
                              well described in _A Question of Time_ by Verlyn Flieger.

                              Good luck!

                              David Bratman
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