reading an article which claims one of the reasons no fantasy series since has had the impact of the lord of the rings is because compared to them, lotr is more accessible due to its shorter length; and like, if fucking lord of the rings is 'short' and 'accessible', that alone is a stunning condemnation of the entire fantasy genre


anyway the real reason no post-lotr series has had its impact is because the genre as it exists established itself by retracing tolkien's synthesis of germanic sagas and catholicism — nothing that doesn't break that mould can have an impact greater than the original, and anything that does will fall outside the commercially viable genre boundaries

lotr came out at precisely the right time and while it had its forebears — dunsany and the sword and sorcery genre — it fused them in precisely the right way. if you're writing something that's recognisable as 'fantasy' you're either copying tolkien or repudiating him

Show thread

as i see it, the monolith of the fantasy genre needs to be dissolved, and this has to happen from the outside, not inside. even something like china miéville's bas-lag (which i adore) is still bit in its shadow. we need to create a new brand of weirdness that impinges on fantasy but does not have its identifying marks

Show thread

@esvrld I suppose maybe in terms of how the greater public views fantasy but as far as, and I guess this is weird to say, but like genre insiders and SFF die-hards go this shift has largely already happened or is in the process of happening. I mean just take a gander at the Hugos. While the best book doesn't necessarily always win (personal grievance...) I don't think an elf or orc has even seen the *nominations* in like 10 years.

@LuigiEsq real talk: i saw this avi and a long reply pop up in my notifs and almost sent you the pig poop balls pic on instinct

@LuigiEsq anyway i think of video games, ttrpgs, and tv in part — 'fantasy' still has a very specific association with the 80s secondhand tolkien ripoff for the larger audience — or like, asoiaf, prince of nothing, malazan, etc which, while they may or may not have elves, still basically exist in that shadow

@LuigiEsq it's not really that they're 'tolkien clones' — all the actually interesting things about tolkien were mostly left on the wayside very quickly, and tolkien would definitely hate everything that gets called 'tolkienesque' nowadays — more that the genre is, i feel, still mired in the conventions and aesthetic, but most significantly the way of writing and worldbuilding born from superficial attempts at appropriating tolkien

@LuigiEsq and while it's true the core of the genre has shaken most of that, i don't think that has the power to spread. that's what i meant about the change having to come from the outside, not the inside

@esvrld Feel free to say no lol because obviously we're pals and I empathize with not feeling like putting in the effort to type some big thing up.

But I'm really not following your critique -- now even less so than before.

What, specifically, do you mean by the writing and worldbuilding of Tolkien? What is unique to him that modern fantasy is still poorly imitating? You listed Malazan in particular; I'm a big Malazan hater, but I wouldn't even call it Tolkien-adjacent.

@LuigiEsq basically i think what's wrong with malazan and the others is they're still trying to 'do fantasy', and what it means to 'do fantasy' is a game of broken telephone going back to tolkien. it's not really anything in tolkien, it's this weird oedipus complex a lot of contemporary fantasy works still have with him, where they're trying to 'worldbuild', trying to create 'epics', and so on — all these failed attempts at recreating tolkien's methodology

@LuigiEsq it's mostly i think tolkien's weaknesses that survive. great man theories of history, handwaved religions, western european settings where everything non-white is suspicious, the struggle against monolithic 'evil', big wars fought for no clear reason

@esvrld some of the biggest gatekeepers and taste makers in the genre have really turned their back on Tolkienesque fantasy -- for the better, I agree. But I think the conception that, at least commercially, it's still mired in these tropes is somewhat outdated.

Sure you can find lots of self-pub dreck but any rube with enough time and dedication to write 75,000 words can do that.

And TV, film, video games, etc. is another story.

@esvrld Weirdly anime is actually one of the big continued propagators of Tolkein clones. Orders of magnitude more than what you see coming out of Tor and Orbit or wherever.

@esvrld see: Harry Potter, which has now had a far greater impact than Lord of the Rings but instead of being classed as fantasy (despite the fact that the main character is a fucking wizard) it instead just led to the development of the new genre of "Young Adult"

@oakreef i'd dispute that harry potter has had more impact than lotr. for most of fiction that features them, wizards still have staves, not wands

@esvrld I think that's not really a good criteria to judge it but that just means it's had little impact on the fantasy genre, because it made new genres instead. Also didn't they use wands in Wizards of Waverly Place?

@oakreef @esvrld *insert arguments over whether vampire fiction, magical realism, etc count as fantasy*

Sign in to participate in the conversation

The social network of the future: No ads, no corporate surveillance, ethical design, and decentralization! Own your data with Mastodon!