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Re: [mythsoc] Modern Fantasy Genre - All seems lost?

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  • David Emerson
    It may not be a big series (in the sense of media attention), but I m rather fond of Sharon Shinn s Twelve Houses Series: Mystic and Rider The Thirteenth
    Message 1 of 20 , Mar 20, 2012
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      It may not be a "big" series (in the sense of media attention), but I'm rather fond of Sharon Shinn's Twelve Houses Series:
          Mystic and Rider
          The Thirteenth House
          Dark Moon Defender
          Reader and Raelynx
      And the series coda, Fortune and Fate.  The first four books comprise a single story arc, although each is a story in itself but builds on what has gone before.  The fifth book, set after the fourth ends (and thus contains spoilers) isn't necessary to the major arc, but is a nice way to revisit that universe and some of the characters.

      Shinn has a couple of other series, too.  I've read one of her Samaria (angel) series and it was also good.

      David Emerson
      -----Original Message-----
      From: WendellWag@...
      Sent: Mar 19, 2012 9:57 PM
      To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Modern Fantasy Genre - All seems lost?

      ...I was particularly interested in learning more about the big fantasy series of the past ten years (or so).  I've been told much about The Book of the New Sun, The Dying Earth, Lyonesse, and Ryhope Wood, but I know little about the dozen or so big adult fantasy series which have come out over the past ten years (or so), although I know and have read some of the children's fantasy series for this period.  I hardly even recognize the names and the names of the authors for the adult fantasy series.
      
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    • David Emerson
      Also having received a lot of attention is the recent pair of books by Lev Grossman, The Magicians and The Magician King . Kind of a post-modern take on the
      Message 2 of 20 , Mar 20, 2012
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        Also having received a lot of attention is the recent pair of books by Lev Grossman, The Magicians and The Magician King.  Kind of a post-modern take on the fantasy genre itself, commenting very darkly on both Harry Potter and Narnia.  I haven't heard if there's going to be a third book.  The end of the second could be taken either as an end or as a setup for a third.

        David Emerson
        -----Original Message-----
        From: WendellWag@...
        Sent: Mar 19, 2012 9:57 PM
        To: mythsoc@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: Re: [mythsoc] Modern Fantasy Genre - All seems lost?

        ...I was particularly interested in learning more about the big fantasy series of the past ten years (or so). 
        
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      • Nancy Marie Brown
        If you re interested in fantasy worlds that include other races like Tolkien s orcs, I d recommend my friend Kate Elliot s Crown of Stars series (8 books).
        Message 3 of 20 , Mar 21, 2012
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          If you're interested in fantasy worlds that include other races like Tolkien's orcs, I'd recommend my friend Kate Elliot's "Crown of Stars" series (8 books). She has a wonderful race of wolvish-dragonish stone creatures that act like Vikings. Her more recent "Cold Magic" trilogy ("Cold Fire" is the second book) also has a cool race of lizard people in a steam-punk sort of world.

          Nancy
          Nancy Marie Brown
          nancymariebrown@...
          nancymariebrown.com

          Visit my blog at www.nancymariebrown.blogspot.com


        • Westermeyer GS11 Paul W
          ... Well, I did mention Brook s books. But all his characters are really humans. Mutated humans, but humans. The elves are different, in theory, but they are
          Message 4 of 20 , Mar 22, 2012
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            > Posted by: "James Curcio" jamescurcio@... agent139
            > Date: Fri Mar 16, 2012 7:54 am ((PDT))
            >
            > Try the Shannara books. Or really anything in any way associated with the
            > D&D / AD&D line (though, as pulpy as they've always been, they've seen a
            > real decline since Hasbro took over.)

            Well, I did mention Brook's books. But all his characters are really humans. Mutated humans, but humans. The elves are different, in theory, but they are treated no differently than the various human and human-mutant groups. Their lifespans, language, even their culture is essentially the same.

            The AD&D books are different in this regard, and I too prefer the earlier ones. Some writers handle elves very well, Elaine Cunningham for example, and I treasure those novels. But most AD&D novels still seem to be focused on humans, and the non-humans are exotic oddities.

            > There are a ton of Tolkien
            > knock-offs of one kind or another. (And I'm not knocking knock-offs either.
            > They are what they are.)

            My point is, people say this in many surveys of fantasy literature or book reviews but I don't believe it is true. There is Brook's first book, and Dennis McKiernan's early Mithgar books but really that is it. Beyond that, people seem to call any fantasy novel a Tolkien pastiche even when all it might have in common with LOTR is a pseudo-medieval setting and magic. By that measure Howard's Conan is a Tolkien pastiche - despite coming first!

            I actually hope in this learned group folks will prove me wrong. I'd love to read some actual Tolkien imitators. :)

            > Posted by: "Croft, Janet B." jbcroft@... jbcroft73019
            > Date: Fri Mar 16, 2012 7:57 am ((PDT))
            >
            > If the multiple races and their political interactions are what appeals
            > to you, try Terry Pratchett. Especially the Ankh-Morpork books!

            Isn't his work broad parody/comedy? I've had his work recommended to me often, but I'm just not a fan of parody/comedy in literature, I prefer that in theater or film.


            > The April issue of The Atlantic has a two-page spread on G.R.R. Martin
            > The Game of Thrones, TV & book, that accuses GRRM of being
            > “Tolkienesque” but with more sex and blood.

            A perfect example of people calling something 'Tolkienesque' when it actually has almost nothing to do with Tolkien. :(

            > Posted by: "John Davis" john@... mcxg46
            > Date: Mon Mar 19, 2012 2:33 am ((PDT))
            >
            > Game of Thrones finally made it to DVD in the UK last week, so I got my
            > first peek of it (yes I know, I should have read the books, but so many
            > books, so little time...). And to me, it felt about as far from Tolkien
            > as it is possible to get. Where Tolkien focuses on the epic, and the
            > mythic struggle between good and evil personified in characters, Game
            > of Thrones seemed to have transplanted early medieval history into a
            > fantasy environment, with no one either good or ungood, and no cause
            > worth fighting for. Very realistic, no doubt, but worlds away -
            > literally - from Tolkien, where, even in his most grim tales (such as
            > Turin), there is a deep-rooted sense of morality and honour. I like
            > both, but don't see many similarities, Sean Bean aside.
            >
            > Personally, I find more similarities between, say, War and Peace, or
            > other epic 'real world' novels, and Lord of the Rings, than Lord of the
            > Rings and the newer 'gritty' fantasy novels. I wonder if people see a
            > fantasy secondary reality portrayed and think 'must be Tolkienesque'
            > without looking deeper?

            All very true, IMO. I couldn't finish the first novel, because I just couldn't really care about the characters. I tried to get into the TV series, hoping it might be more palatable in TV form and no dice their either. It is well acted and well done, and I dare say the novels are well written, just not to my taste. The author has said it is modeled on the War of the Roses, I think that is an accurate comparison.

            > Posted by: "WendellWag@..." WendellWag@... wendell_wagner
            > Date: Mon Mar 19, 2012 7:57 pm ((PDT))
            >
            > Thanks to all those who replied. I should have said that I was
            > particularly interested in learning more about the big fantasy series of the past ten
            > years (or so). I've been told much about The Book of the New Sun, The
            > Dying Earth, Lyonesse, and Ryhope Wood, but I know little about the dozen or
            > so big adult fantasy series which have come out over the past ten years (or
            > so), although I know and have read some of the children's fantasy series
            > for this period. I hardly even recognize the names and the names of the
            > authors for the adult fantasy series.

            Well, you said you've read some of the children's books. For my money, the best of those are JK Rowlings "Harry Potter" books, which I think will stand the test of time as classics. The captivated me like no other book had done since Tolkien when I first read them. I also find Joseph Delaney's Spook's Apprentice books to be truly excellent.

            As for adult books of the past ten years, I recommend:
            _Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell_ by Susanna Clarke
            _The Historian_ by Elizabeth Kostova
            _The Dresden Files_ by Jim Butcher
            _Peter & Max_ by Bill Willingham (a novel about characters from his _Fables_ comic book series, which is very good as well.)
            _Johannes Cabal: the Necromancer_ by Jonathan L. Howard

            Some folks like _The Magicians_ by Lev Grossman, it is well written, but very odd IMO. I reviewed it last March in KODT and started the review like this:

            ""Wake up!" Alice said. "This isn't a story! It's just one fucking thing after another!"

            Two thirds of the way through Lev Grossman’s fantasy novel the only truly appealing character in the novel screeches out the novel’s strengths and flaws in one shrill, profane statement. It isn’t a story, not really. It’s just one thing after another."
          • Croft, Janet B.
            ... Isn t his work broad parody/comedy? I ve had his work recommended to me often, but I m just not a fan of parody/comedy in literature, I prefer that in
            Message 5 of 20 , Mar 22, 2012
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              > Posted by: "Croft, Janet B."

              jbcroft@... jbcroft73019
              > Date: Fri Mar 16, 2012 7:57 am ((PDT))
              >
              > If the multiple races and their political interactions are what appeals
              > to you, try Terry Pratchett. Especially the Ankh-Morpork books!

              Isn't his work broad parody/comedy? I've had his work recommended to me often, but I'm just not a fan of parody/comedy in literature, I prefer that in theater or film.

               

              ***The early books are pretty much just parody/comedy. The later books have a great deal more depth, though they are also still in places very, very funny. You might try starting with a fairly late book, _Making Money_ – while you’ll miss some nuances and some character history by not having read the earlier books, it stands alone fairly well. It’s got a good mix of the races of the Discworld, plus you see the process of trying to figure out a relatively new race, the golems. The comedy in his mature work comes more from character and situation than slapstick and pastiche. (Not that there’s NO slapstick, of course.)

               

              And if you DO prefer your comedy and parody on film, I can highly recommend the adaptation of his “Christmas” book, _Hogfather_. The other adaptations, not so much, though I haven’t seen _Making Money_ yet.

               

              Janet Brennan Croft

              Associate Professor
              Head of Access Services
              University of Oklahoma Libraries
              Bizzell 106NW
              Norman OK 73019
              405-325-1918
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              jbcroft@...
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              Editor of Mythlore
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              Book Review Editor of Oklahoma Librarian http://www.oklibs.org/oklibrarian/current/index.html

              "Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the rising ape meets the falling angel." -Terry Pratchett

               

            • Alana Joli Abbott
              ... I agree with Janet, but I would have suggested starting with *Small Gods* (which is an earlier stand-alone and was my first experience with a Pratchett
              Message 6 of 20 , Mar 22, 2012
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                ***The early books are pretty much just parody/comedy. The later books have a great deal more depth, though they are also still in places very, very funny. You might try starting with a fairly late book, _Making Money_ – while you’ll miss some nuances and some character history by not having read the earlier books, it stands alone fairly well. It’s got a good mix of the races of the Discworld, plus you see the process of trying to figure out a relatively new race, the golems. The comedy in his mature work comes more from character and situation than slapstick and pastiche. (Not that there’s NO slapstick, of course.)


                I agree with Janet, but I would have suggested starting with Small Gods (which is an earlier stand-alone and was my first experience with a Pratchett title) or maybe Night Watch (which is part of an arc, but does introduce the characters). Monstrous Regiment is also one of the meatier recent stand-alones, though familiar characters from earlier books do make appearances. Some of the books are quite zany (any of them about Rincewind tend to be sillier than the rest; they're not my favorites). Several of the other arcs do have elements of zany comedy, but the later books in each arc are definitely deeper. I'd say that Pratchett makes good use of the absurd to create satire in a fantasy setting, but that the works go beyond satire and into mythopoeia (as I define it) quite often.

                As far as imitators go, I think the Eragon books (YA series) are very imitative of bits of Tolkien and bits of the Wheel of Time books. I make no judgment on the value of the series, but of all of the books that I think have been called pastiche by reviewers, the Eragon books seem to best deserve the label. (I read a few of the books but could only stand to watch the first fifteen minutes or so of the film, which was also pastiche -- I swear they lifted an exact positioning of the hero looking at the sunset from Luke Skywalker in Star Wars.)

                -Alana

                --
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                Contributor to Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror http://tinyurl.com/haunted-aja
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              • tuhonbillmcg
                ... Part of the problem is they are comparing apples with oranges. Martin s Game of Thrones falls more into the category of Sword and Sorcery (and
                Message 7 of 20 , Mar 22, 2012
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                  --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Mike Foster" <mafoster@...> wrote:
                  >
                  > The April issue of The Atlantic has a two-page spread on G.R.R. Martin The Game of Thrones, TV & book, that accuses GRRM of being “Tolkienesque” but with more sex and blood.
                  >

                  Part of the problem is they are comparing apples with oranges. Martin's "Game of Thrones" falls more into the category of "Sword and Sorcery" (and therefore should be compared with Howard's "Conan the Barbarian") rather than the High Fantasy genre Tolkien is known for.

                  A useful book to help understand the High Fantasy novels of Tolkien and his friend C. S. Lewis (and to a large extent modern works like the Harry Potter series), is C. S. Lewis' "The Discarded Image," in which he describes what he calls "The Medieval Model."

                  http://www.amazon.com/Discarded-Image-Introduction-Renaissance-Literature/dp/0521477352

                  This model is a worldview found in the literature of Western Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It is a worldview influenced by both the classical writings of pagan Greeks and Romans as much as the Bible and written works of the early church fathers. When I hear professors of medieval literature cite the novels of Lewis and Tolkien as excellent introductions to medieval literature for modern readers, it is this worldview, this "Medieval Model" that they are recognizing. When we use the term "knight" it is often tied to another word which defines the expected behavior of this type of warrior. Hence we often think of chivalrous knights as warriors who fought in a certain way and believed in certain things and were held to a higher ideal than merely being soldiers on horseback.

                  I am writing a series of blog posts on the subject which can be found here:

                  http://theswordoffire.wordpress.com/

                  The series began in December with this post:
                  http://theswordoffire.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/high_fantasy_medieval_model/

                  I hope you will drop by, read a post or two and leave a comment.

                  Regards,
                  Bill McGrath
                • John Davis
                  I sometimes feel that Tolkien was the last of the medieval fantasy writers (if you ll forgive me using the term backwards), not the first of the modern ones.
                  Message 8 of 20 , Mar 23, 2012
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                    I sometimes feel that Tolkien was the last of the medieval 'fantasy' writers (if you'll forgive me using the term backwards), not the first of the modern ones. Certainly when I went in search of Tolkien-like books, I found myself looking back to works that influenced him, rather than forwards to books that were allegedly influenced by him.
                     
                    Perhaps his influence is not so much in tone or style, as in the fact that he created an audience for epic fantasy once more.
                     
                    John
                     
                    ----- Original Message -----
                    Sent: Thursday, March 22, 2012 8:23 PM
                    Subject: [mythsoc] Re: Modern Fantasy Genre - All seems lost?

                     



                    --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, "Mike Foster" <mafoster@...> wrote:
                    >
                    > The April issue of The Atlantic has a two-page spread on G.R.R. Martin The Game of Thrones, TV & book, that accuses GRRM of being “Tolkienesque” but with more sex and blood.
                    >

                    Part of the problem is they are comparing apples with oranges. Martin's "Game of Thrones" falls more into the category of "Sword and Sorcery" (and therefore should be compared with Howard's "Conan the Barbarian") rather than the High Fantasy genre Tolkien is known for.

                    A useful book to help understand the High Fantasy novels of Tolkien and his friend C. S. Lewis (and to a large extent modern works like the Harry Potter series), is C. S. Lewis' "The Discarded Image," in which he describes what he calls "The Medieval Model."

                    http://www.amazon.com/Discarded-Image-Introduction-Renaissance-Literature/dp/0521477352

                    This model is a worldview found in the literature of Western Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It is a worldview influenced by both the classical writings of pagan Greeks and Romans as much as the Bible and written works of the early church fathers. When I hear professors of medieval literature cite the novels of Lewis and Tolkien as excellent introductions to medieval literature for modern readers, it is this worldview, this "Medieval Model" that they are recognizing. When we use the term "knight" it is often tied to another word which defines the expected behavior of this type of warrior. Hence we often think of chivalrous knights as warriors who fought in a certain way and believed in certain things and were held to a higher ideal than merely being soldiers on horseback.

                    I am writing a series of blog posts on the subject which can be found here:

                    http://theswordoffire.wordpress.com/

                    The series began in December with this post:
                    http://theswordoffire.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/high_fantasy_medieval_model/

                    I hope you will drop by, read a post or two and leave a comment.

                    Regards,
                    Bill McGrath

                  • scribbler@scribblerworks.us
                    I ve been very interested in this discussion, because as a writer of fantasy, I do consider myself writing in the tradition of Tolkien . But since I have yet
                    Message 9 of 20 , Mar 23, 2012
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                      I've been very interested in this discussion, because as a writer of
                      fantasy, I do consider myself "writing in the tradition of Tolkien". But
                      since I have yet to get the thing finished and out (hoping to do that
                      soon, though), it's hard to feel justified in speaking about "where I'm
                      coming from". But here goes anyway.

                      I think one of the things about Tolkien that makes his work so
                      exceptional, and why so few works seem to measure up to it, no matter how
                      massive they are, is that there is such a depth to his world building.

                      I doubt there will be another writer of his skill who has also the skills
                      he had in creating new languages. So let us not us "invented language" as
                      a criterion for evaluation.

                      But beyond that, there are the geneologies, the histories, the stories and
                      poetry that he created. The poetry of the dwarves is not like that of the
                      elves - that sort of thing. Just in the matter of poetry alone, Tolkien
                      far outstrips his imitators, because he was good enough to write poetry
                      for different peoples that really FELT that it came from a different
                      sensibility. I say as a poet myself, that is not easy to do.

                      I've been reading Erikson's first volume -- it is massive and an
                      incredible amount of world-building went into it. But though his prose is
                      very good, and he creates interesting characters, the STORY itself is
                      amazingly unfocused, and no character stands out strongly as the MAIN
                      character. Let alone, I don't really "get" what the heart of the main
                      conflict is ABOUT.

                      These are things that Tolkien is very clear on.

                      Beyond all that, I think another thing that gives Tolkien's work greater
                      power and endurance is that he built the mythology of his subcreation upon
                      the base of the theology he himself believed. By doing this, the issues
                      his characters faced became even more crucial to him.

                      Many of Tolkien's imitators are content with a pseudo-medieval setting and
                      a rushing adventure story. They don't want to take the time with history,
                      unless it can be turned into a plowed field for future "cultivation" (read
                      "more books and series"). And they certainly cannot take the time to
                      create the literature of their invented realms.

                      Tolkien created a long STORY, not a never-ending on-going sword-swinging
                      soap opera. His imitators, by and large, cannot bring themselves to close
                      off a story. Me, I want to tell stories. They happen to take place in the
                      same sub-created world, but I have no intention of writing volume after
                      volume with no real resolution to that particular story. Bleh.

                      I would hope that my work will be judged (Yes! I want it judged, because
                      that would mean I had finished it! :D ) as being "Tolkienesque" - in the
                      best way.

                      But I agree, most of the fantasy I've read in the last several years,
                      doesn't quite come up to the measure of Tolkien.

                      Added thought: I will recommend David Anthony Durham's ACACIA. I've only
                      read the first volume (which happily DOES have sufficient resolution to be
                      read just for itself!). It is very dense, for his world-building is quite
                      remarkable and vivid, and he has a lot of story going on. But the
                      characters are clear and the conflict unmuddled.


                      > I sometimes feel that Tolkien was the last of the medieval 'fantasy'
                      > writers (if you'll forgive me using the term backwards), not the first of
                      > the modern ones. Certainly when I went in search of Tolkien-like books, I
                      > found myself looking back to works that influenced him, rather than
                      > forwards to books that were allegedly influenced by him.
                      >
                      > Perhaps his influence is not so much in tone or style, as in the fact that
                      > he created an audience for epic fantasy once more.
                      >
                      > John
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