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