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

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  • 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 1 of 20 , Mar 22, 2012

      ***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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    • 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 2 of 20 , Mar 22, 2012
        --- 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 3 of 20 , Mar 23, 2012
          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 4 of 20 , Mar 23, 2012
            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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