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

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  • 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 1 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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