Currently Reading…

KeskusteluBallantine Adult Fantasy

Liity LibraryThingin jäseneksi, niin voit kirjoittaa viestin.

Currently Reading…

heinäkuu 17, 2023, 9:08 am

Gormenghast, after a gap of years since reading Titus Groan, but I remember the earlier novel quite well. Also, Jurgen: I have been meaning to get to Cabell for years, and this is the acknowledged place to start.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 17, 2023, 10:06 am

Peake is in my unwritten TBR list; it's really amazing I've neglected those books this long.

Although Jurgen is certainly Cabell's most famous work (thanks to Anthony Comstock and John Sumner!), I think The High Place is actually the best and most accessible standalone book in The Biography of the Life of Manuel.

heinäkuu 17, 2023, 10:35 am

Peake is not Tolkien-ish in the least, although he was marketed as such because hey, another trilogy! He will never have WIDE popularity; he is just too literary, knowing, ironic for that.

heinäkuu 17, 2023, 12:14 pm

>3 PatrickMurtha: marketed as such because hey, another trilogy

I think that's a little hard on Lin Carter, whose work on BAF shows that he had real ambitions to span a variety of adult fantasy, with special attention to the "literary, knowing" sort by James Branch Cabell in particular. The Orientalist fantasies of William Beckford, George Meredith, and F. Marion Crawford were also "not Tolkien-ish" but were clearly included on their own merits rather than just something to sell in the format.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 17, 2023, 3:43 pm

Oh, I wasn’t targeting Carter, I just remember that the Ballantine marketing at the time came across that way. People wanted more Tolkien, and BAF kind of promised to give it to them without in fact doing so. There was I think a rift between Carter’s enthusiasms and commercial saleability. I love the re-publication of authors like Eddison and Hodgson but you know, they are not the most accessible.

Not even Tolkien provided more Tolkien; The Silmarillion was scarcely another Lord of the Rings, in the popular narrative sense. So there was an opening for down-market Tolkien imitators, who then started to emerge (and alas, are still going strong).

heinäkuu 17, 2023, 12:52 pm

I came across this interesting summary by Reddit poster “Mournelithe”:

“So Tolkien broke the US in 1966. It took a while for his influence to be seen in publishing, because it took a while for books to be written. Ballantine was the major SFF publisher at the time, and they relaunched their adult Fantasy series in 1977 under the Del Rey banner. Lester Del Rey subsequently deliberately sought out books inspired by Tolkien, presumably to help build his brand.

The first two books off the blocks after that were Terry Brooks' Sword of Shannara (which he started writing in 1967) and Stephen Donaldson's Lord Foul's Bane (started in 1972). The first was widely criticised as being heavily derivative, while the second was seen as a direct response to Tolkien. The same year also saw the publishing of the Silmarillion and the true resurgence of Fantasy as a separate genre.

Subsequently we had a wide range of direct successors - Eddings with the Belgariad, GGK did his Fionavar Tapestry, McKiernan had his Iron Tower. Secondary world, Big Bad Evil to defeat, medieval setting, the works.

Around the same time, Gygax and Dungeons and Dragons codified a lot of Tolkien's more obvious tropes alongside those of the Sword and Sorcery days - multiple races especially elves/dwarves/orcs, quests to find or destroy mystic artifacts, all powerful Evils and so on. Those percolated in the writing community and spawned the Generic Fantasy Setting, which exploded as Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, and so on, and showed up in mainstream fantasy in works like Feist's Riftwar and spawned Warhammer and the miniatures scene.

By the mid to late 80s Fantasy was rapidly getting a reputation for Extruded Fantasy Product - Tad Williams came on the scene as a breath of fresh air in that regard - clearly heavily influenced by Tolkien but determined to go in a very different direction. The new big name Jordan however was initially writing very much the same as what had been before.”

I have never read Donaldson, but he does sound interesting to me. The other imitators tagged here do NOT sound so interesting.

heinäkuu 17, 2023, 2:54 pm

I have read Donaldson--the first three Thomas Covenant books, and then after a pause the fourth. There were things I liked about the books, but I did jump ship in the middle of the fifth, and I'm not tempted to return to them.

I strongly agree with the notion that the bulk of what passes for "fantasy" in today's market appears to be a hybrid between the sort of fantasy found among the BAF titles on the one hand (for which I would say Dunsany furnishes the true paradigms*), and the pulp sword & sorcery approach common to Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, C. L. Moore, Michael Moorcock etc. on the other, all mediated through later games that are chiefly responsible for the synthesis. The capitalization of "Generic Fantasy Setting" suggests that it is a pre-existent term of art, but this is the first time I've encountered it.

I've never read Tad Williams, and I don't find his doorstop novels very tempting. Of Robert Jordan's work, I've only read the Conan pastiche novels. These seemed to me more closely akin to Andrew Offutt's Conan pastiche work than to the original REH stories.

* Reading Unfinished Tales a few years back impressed me with the extent to which Tolkien just gradually added his linguistic preoccupations and a sense of positive history to the sort of fantasy that Dunsany wrote.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 17, 2023, 3:50 pm

I think the general public’s conception of what fantasy is, is very narrow and constricted (hence “Generic Fantasy Setting”). It scarcely encompasses the range of what the fantastic can be; no elves or wizards, no general interest. Hence any writing that pushes back against that narrow conception, I am for in principle.

I have friends who really like Tad Wiliams’ Otherland series.

One of the great things about Peake is that his setting only SEEMS to be faux-medieval. This becomes fully apparent in the third volume, but even before that, there are clues for the eagle-eyed (such as a reference to detecting microbes early on in Gormenghast).

Joe Lee Davis’s 1962 study of Cabell in the Twayne US Authors Series is quite stimulating.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 17, 2023, 5:54 pm

>8 PatrickMurtha: Joe Lee Davis’s 1962 study of Cabell

I have a few volumes of Cabell criticism, but not that one.

I concur that "fantasy" has gotten pretty straightjacketed. Some of the best fantastic writing in recent decades seems to have come under the "New Weird" label, books like Ford's Well-Built City Trilogy and VanderMeer's Ambergris.

I thought Paul Park's upending of modern fantasy tropes in the (very mature though superficially YA) Roumania books was pretty impressive. You know, I've never put them in the same conversation before, but I think Roumania had everything I liked in the Thomas Covenant books, and none of the bits that put me off.