[LMB] LOTR, Modern Fantasy, and Chalion

Andrew Lambdin-Abraham andrew at firehead.org
Sun, 30 Dec 2001 21:51:27 -0600

On Friday, December 28, 2001, at 06:55 PM, James and Mary Burbidge wrote:

> The trend of the
> genre is away from the epic and towards the novel, or towards the gross
> simplification of the epic which is sword and sorcery.

I've snipped everything else because my comments are going to be general 
and I'd end up with a huge amount quoted and little commentary.

I think much of what you've said is fairly accurate as far as fantasy 
goes.  However, given that Tolkien was pretty much the only writer of 
his type, the rest hasn't really regressed so much as been not at the 
same level.  In any event, I don't really care.

I'm a person of low tastes.  As I noted in the Pizza thread, I'm not 
that picky.  I'll order the cheaper version rather than the better one, 
more often that not.  This may not apply as much to my computing 
choices, but it does to most everything else.  I'm not terribly 
concerned that epics aren't being written.  I read many authors who do 
little than retell somebody else's story.  I even made it through 
"Redemption of Altheus", which was Edding's retelling of his own story.  
It was a struggle, and I won't buy it for a long time, but I will 
eventually.  I've kept up with Robert Jordan for a long time, and was 
only about to abandon him before "Winter's Heart" came out, which 
redeemed his series to me.

This probably has something to do with why I read.  I read for 
distraction and escapism.  Probably why I don't do dystopias very well.  
I know the world is very bad, making it worse is more than I want to 
think about.  Bujold gives me the best universe I know of to escape to.  
I love the Vorkosiverse because it is detailed enough to speculate 
about, but so full of characters who steal the show.  The plots are 
good, but the people are so good you can take them out and do stuff with 
them (like a RPG) while keeping the rest of the book interesting.

The biggest problem I have with Tolkien is the elgaic tone James 
enjoys.  It is completely contrary to my mindset that things are getting 
worse.  There may be small setbacks, but I remain convinced that as time 
moves on things progress.  To read about how the world is waning and 
things aren't as great as they were is just not something I can accept.  
Tolkien does say the world will be different, but it's obvious things 
are getting worse.  Just look at the life-spans of the men.

I like Tolkien well enough, and his world is sufficiently interesting to 
me I'll end up with all the accessory books as well, but I don't really 
miss the epics.

I liked Chalion.  I really did.  But I suspect many of the deepest 
elements went right past me.  Fine.  I'm just not really deep enough to 
get them.  I'll stick a little closer to the surface and read it anyway.