a critique of modern fantasy

billc

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This is a column over at Bighollywood.com that talks about Tolkein and Howard and how the modern fantasy writers have done their best to drag fantasy down the rat hole.

http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/l...ihilism-of-our-fallen-fantasists/#more-445312

In the case of the fantasy genre, the result is a mockery and defilement of the mythopoeic splendor that true artists like Tolkien and Howard willed into being with their life’s blood. Honor is replaced with debasement, romance with filth, glory with defeat, and hope with despair. Edgy? Nah, just punk kids farting in class and getting some giggles from the other mouth-breathers.

Soiling the building blocks and well-known tropes of our treasured modern myths is no different than other artists taking a crucifix and dipping it in urine, covering it in ants, or smearing it with feces. In the end, it’s just another small, pathetic chapter in the decades-long slide of Western civilization into suicidal self-loathing. It’s a well-worn road: bored middle-class creatives (almost all of them college-educated liberals) living lives devoid of any greater purpose inevitably reach out for anything deemed sacred by the conservatives populating any artistic field. They co-opt the language, the plots, the characters, the cliches, the marketing, and proceed to deconstruct it all like a mad doctor performing an autopsy. Then, using cynicism, profanity, scatology, dark humor, and nihilism, they put it back together into a Frankenstein’s monster designed to shock, outrage, offend, and dishearten.
 

Blindside

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Hey Bill, what is your opinion of the state of modern fantasy?

It has been a couple of years since I reread Tolkien's Trilogy and Hobbit, they are certainly a classic in my opinion, but I also appreciate shades of grey, I don't want all my escapism to be about white hats and black hats, I realize that a fantasy world has the shades of in between as well. It makes it more.... believable I guess. I really like Drake and Martin in their takes on fantasy, I don't think it somehow stains the efforts of Tolkien or Lewis.

As for Howard and Conan, well, I would have loved it had I read it at 15, but I'm not 15 anymore.
 

MA-Caver

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This is a column over at Bighollywood.com that talks about Tolkein and Howard and how the modern fantasy writers have done their best to drag fantasy down the rat hole.

http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/l...ihilism-of-our-fallen-fantasists/#more-445312

In the case of the fantasy genre, the result is a mockery and defilement of the mythopoeic splendor that true artists like Tolkien and Howard willed into being with their lifes blood. Honor is replaced with debasement, romance with filth, glory with defeat, and hope with despair. Edgy? Nah, just punk kids farting in class and getting some giggles from the other mouth-breathers.

Soiling the building blocks and well-known tropes of our treasured modern myths is no different than other artists taking a crucifix and dipping it in urine, covering it in ants, or smearing it with feces. In the end, its just another small, pathetic chapter in the decades-long slide of Western civilization into suicidal self-loathing. Its a well-worn road: bored middle-class creatives (almost all of them college-educated liberals) living lives devoid of any greater purpose inevitably reach out for anything deemed sacred by the conservatives populating any artistic field. They co-opt the language, the plots, the characters, the cliches, the marketing, and proceed to deconstruct it all like a mad doctor performing an autopsy. Then, using cynicism, profanity, scatology, dark humor, and nihilism, they put it back together into a Frankensteins monster designed to shock, outrage, offend, and dishearten.

There are a lot of things I could lay blame upon to why/how the fantasy genre has taken a slide. But I'd be risking pissing off quite a few people.

This is why I stick to the old and enjoy it again and again as it was meant to be. To date Burroughs, Howard, Bradbury, Tolkien, and others have yet to fail me as far as entertaining me with their stories... in spite that I've read them dozens (if not hundreds) of times.
 

granfire

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Hmm, the fiction of today reflects the experiences of the author.

Tolkien was a child of his time, just as today's authors.

Why should fantasy be different from any other genre. Romance is a far cry these days from a Jane Austin or a Barbara Cartland.

I am sure some have a more wholesome approach still...
 

Ken Morgan

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Fantasy has grown up. Years ago any hack who could string multiple words together got themselves published, great fantasy stood out.

With Authors today like, Brooks, Feist, Kay, DeLint, Turtledove, Pratchett, Eddings, Rowling, Donaldson and Gaiman just to name a few off the top of my head, whoever thinks that modern fantasy is substandard have simply become fantasy snobs.
 
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billc

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I liked the hobbit but I thought the Lord of the rings was pretty boring. Of course I read it in high school. The page after page of slogging through marshes and bogs, and mordor was really boring. The Hobbit was probably one of my favorite books and still might be if I ever re-read it. I have to say it was one of those perfect books. I feel though that the movie will probably be disappointing. I also loved the Conan books. I read those over and over, and John Carter of mars, the first three books were awsome.

Abercrombie and Stover are entertaining but a steady diet of their stuff would probably put me on anti-depressants. Stovers last book was kind of over the top with its black talon tribe and the knight sequence, not for kids. There are a lot more authors trying to do fantasy so that is a good thing but most of it is of course average to bad. I think if you are going to go real graphic on the violence and sex in a fantasy nove you have to be really good at what you do, other wise you are just using it to cover up for a lack of real story telling ability. I think Stovers first book, and Abercrombie succeed because they told good stories, and the story wasn't just violence and sex just to have violence and sex and gore in the novel.

One author who I think fell into this was Laurell K. Hamilton and her anita blake novels. After the first four or five they just became wierd sex novels with some fantasy thrown in at the end. That got old pretty fast.
 

girlbug2

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There are a lot of things I could lay blame upon to why/how the fantasy genre has taken a slide. But I'd be risking pissing off quite a few people.

.

When I realized that fantasy had degenerated into goddess lore and gratuitous sex such as Laurell K Hamilton's pulp, I quit reading new fantasy. Almost missed out on Song of Ice And Fire by Martin, which is the glaring exception to the general decline in quality.

Who ruined fantasy? IMO it was Goths and Gaists.
 
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billc

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I was surprised to find out how many young Goth girls seem to flock to Laurell K. Hamilton signings at the various bookstores. At least that is what the clerk told me when I asked about one of her sighnings at a local Borders. It seemed odd.
 

bushidomartialarts

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Seems like the guy who wrote that critique longs for the days of simple stories and simplistic characters.

Today's fantasy is darker, more complex, with characters who have actual flaws. For my money, that's good writing. Modern fantasy is better than much of what came before. The art has simply evolved, as have the tastes of the consumer.

That's not to say there isn't a lot of stuff out there these days that read like somebody took a big, brown, steaming pile of words and stuck a dragon on the cover. But that was true during the pulp era, too.....only the best pulp writers (like Howard and Lovecraft and Hammett) get read today.

Ninety years from now, only the best fantasy will still be in print. And those folks will be decrying how poor the C+ grade authors of their day are compared to Pratchett, Gaiman and Feist.

Just my two cents.
 

Cryozombie

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Abercrombie and Stover are entertaining but a steady diet of their stuff would probably put me on anti-depressants.

I'd take Abercrombie over Tolkien any day. While I give props to Tolkien for practically creating the fantasy genre as we know it, like you said "Hooooo Hummm. They are walking again, and I get to read another 100 pages describing it."

Abercrombie's Characters, with all their flaws and humanity are far more believable to me than the fact Frodo and Sam were not gay lovers.

Well, maybe that second thing was the movie's fault. ;)
 
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billc

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I noticed this in college, how many of the books that we read in high school and college actually ended in a positive way. I can't think of many. The same would apply to new fantasy. I think if you took Abercrombie or Stover, and had a positive, happy ending, it would be better. Combine gritty reality with a good ending and I think it would be a great read. As I said before, you have to be pretty talented to make the dark stuff work. It is like Blue comedy. Most of the comedians who go blue, aren't funny. Take the true masters of comedy, Bill Cosby and Jerry Seinfeld (although I never found Seinfeld that funny, but he is one of the most successful comedians out there), they never went blue and they are at the top. Bill Cosby's, "himself" was great. The one comedian who went blue and was really funny, in my opinion, was Eddie Murphy in his show "Raw." He was actually funny. Most of the comedians are just disgusting when they do blue. I guess the same goes for fantasy writers. Jim Butcher is incredibly successful and he is pretty standard without to much over the top gore, or sex. Robert Jordan, before he started adding thousands of characters and lost the end game to his books, was great. He had a lot of greatness in his books. Talent will come through regardless of the subject matter I guess.
 

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I'd take Abercrombie over Tolkien any day. While I give props to Tolkien for practically creating the fantasy genre as we know it, like you said "Hooooo Hummm. They are walking again, and I get to read another 100 pages describing it."

Abercrombie's Characters, with all their flaws and humanity are far more believable to me than the fact Frodo and Sam were not gay lovers.

Well, maybe that second thing was the movie's fault. ;)


Somewhere you can't forget the time it was written in.

Same as Pratchett might lose some of the spark in another 10 or 20 years...
 

Empty Hands

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Now Breitbart is going after my fantasy novels?

HE HAS GONE TOO FAR!!!!

Fantasy, like everything else in life, is subject to Sturgeon's Law: "90% of everything is crap." This is as true today as it was in Tolkien's time - are we all forgetting the pulp age of fantasy and sci-fi filled with imagination-less Tolkien clones and trashy Mars adventures? Today of course there is a lot more fantasy, so a lot more crap, but that 10% also results in a larger amount of better fantasy than there used to be. To the above authors, I would also add Steven Erikson, Brandon Sanderson, and many others.

There is a LOT of great stuff out there, you just have to be choosy - just like everything else. The genre is not defined by Laurell K. Hamilton, no more than the action genre of movies is defined by Michael Bay or some other wretched hack. Of course, when you try to make art into an ideological purity test like the stupid author of this Breitbart empire ********, you end up with awful art.
 

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You want some intelligent, well written fantasy? Check out L.E. Modesitt's fantasies, starting with the Recluce books, but you can include his Imager Portfolio, Corian Chronicles, and more. Logical, well written, well defined characters, and they'll make you think, too. Simon Green is another current fantasy author I'd recommend. Fun, interesting takes on some old tropes, often.

But the reality is that the publishers are out to make money. So they'll publish half-assed crap from someone who has name recognition and will sell... so we get unending series from authors who often seem to be phoning it in for a paycheck. (Piers Anthony is, in my opinion, great at starting a neat idea, then losing interest or commitment partway through, leading to weird shifts or half-assed "completion" of series.) E-publishing may change some of this... but there's still promotion and advertising to get the works out there.
 

Ken Morgan

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You want some intelligent, well written fantasy? Check out L.E. Modesitt's fantasies, starting with the Recluce books,

Yeah, I read the first five books, I couldn't wait for the next ones, then like Jordans stuff, i got sick of it. Sometimes I think some authors carry on because the stories are so successful, but then many times they start falling flat after a bit.

I think right now DeLint is my favorite author, the urban fantasy really strikes a cord with me.
 

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I really loved Joel Rosenberg's "The Guardians of the Flame" series. But like so often happens with some of these fantasy writers, the allure of milling out new books killed what could have been a great story with AN END!! I think the series is still going on, but once the storyline went off the rails I lost interest.
 

Empty Hands

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I really loved Joel Rosenberg's "The Guardians of the Flame" series. But like so often happens with some of these fantasy writers, the allure of milling out new books killed what could have been a great story with AN END!! I think the series is still going on, but once the storyline went off the rails I lost interest.

That's one reason I like Brandon Sanderson. The longest series he's ever written is a trilogy, and many of his books are standalone novels. He's much better at writing a tight world, and accomplishing characterization in a hundred pages rather than 10 books because of it. Of course, he just released Book 1 in a planned 10-book series, so there goes that theory, but if I trust anyone with an epic I trust Sanderson.
 

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Simon Green is another current fantasy author I'd recommend. Fun, interesting takes on some old tropes, often.

The Deathstalker books were lots of fun. I like how you start out with a guy who can slow time to a crawl in his perception so he can *** kick at leisure, and it just gets more and more insane until he and his buddies are taking on alien killing machines and entire armies single-handed.
 
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billc

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Simon Greens Nightside series was great at first and then, once you realize that as soon as he gets into trouble, the main character uses his gift to get out of it, it lost something for me. The same goes for his drood series with their golden armour. I just started reading one of the new Remo Williams books and it is about the same. Characters that are more or less invincible are almost as bad as books that over do the gore, and sex. It seems Greens books are more about how creative he can get with the different characters that his main protaganist interacts with. At first this is pretty entertaining, and clever, but when it is the main part of the books, it becomes boring.
 
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