: fantasy monarchies

Jon Noble jon_p_noble at yahoo.com
Tue Feb 4 22:47:54 EST 2003

--- Kathryn Andersen <kat_lists at katspace.com> wrote:
> On Mon, Feb 03, 2003 at 09:52:56PM -0800, Jon Noble
> wrote:
> > pulps (Literary Darwinism?)Genre Fantasy arose
> through
> > a divine act of Special Creation from the God
> > and the angelic Choirs of publishers and readers
> have
> > decreed that things must remain the same, for ever
> and
> > ever, Amen.
> Oh, pu-leaze! (rolls eyes)  I am sick of this
> threadbare myth.
> Firstly, Tolkien didn't invent fantasy.  It was
> around before he wrote
> his work -- der, anyone hear about Arthurian
> Romance?  And what about
> Spencer's Faerie Queene?
> Secondly, I am sick and tired of Tolkien taking the
> blame for the
> crappiness of those who came later.  You're all
> talking as if he
> invented Feudalism, as if he invented the Quest, and
> so on.
I was talking in very broad generalisations there, an
making a theory with holes big enough not only for all
the orcs in Mordor to march through, but even for
Cordwainer Smith's Golden Ship to travel through.
I wasn't intending to suggest that JRRT invented
fantasy - or even its traditions, but, perhaps, that
he is an enormous mountain that obscures everything
that went before, and overshadows much that follows.
At least to those without the wit to look to the side.
(which of course everyone on this list has) I think
that Genre Fantasy since the 1970s has been hugely
influenced by JRRT to the point that many authors and
most readers don't even question certain assumptions,
simply because JRRT used them. Just about everything
in the Tough Guide can be found in JRRT, but they
weren't cliches when he wrote them. I am well aware of
the rich body of fantasy that preceded JRRT, in the
same post I also refer to Unknown Magazine as a
wonderful source of very imaginative fantasy from the
1940s. I think I also mentioned in earlier posts that
Fantasy Monarchies were already an established feature
of fantasy well before LOTR. 

> Nobody actually went on a Quest in LotR -- they went
> on an anti-Quest.
> If you have a Quest, you're off looking for some
> Powerful Object.  In
> LotR, they already *had* the Powerful Object, and
> the point of their
> mission was to destroy the thing.  About the only
> other author I can
> think of who wrote something where the Powerful
> Object was too dangerous
> to use, was Samuel R. Delaney, in "The Jewels of
> Aptor".
I would still regard LOTR as a quest in form, it is
just a quest to renounce something rather than gain
it. I actually read Jewels of Aptor before LOTR.

> If you're going to complain about True Heirs and
> Quests, put the blame
> where it belongs -- with King Arthur.  Not with
> Tolkien.

How about the Odyssey as a quest (for home), or the
Epic of Gilgamesh (for the secret of Immortality)


PS the Tolkien= Mountain analogy was one I heard used
by Tad Williams in explaining Memory, Sorrow and
Thorn. He described JRRT as a huge obstacle in the
path of fantasy, many authors stopped when the got to
him and nether went any further, many others, if they
had some imagination, would go off in another
direction, but very few actually climbed to the top to
see what lay beyond on that path.

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