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The Fantasy Genre' and its Authors


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#1 JackT

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Posted 09 May 2011 - 01:29 PM

Continuing a discussion from another thread:

 

re Zelazny: The Chronicles of Amber is one of my all time favorites, and one I frequently recommend to people who have never heard of it . ( It also happens to have playing cards in it, which should be of interest to us here.)

re "Overrated": I have often had the same thought, that this amounts to criticizing something on the basis of it being too popular. As such, it is frequently just an expression of elitist snobbery. Which brings us to..

re Literature Professors and Popular Literature: I would be more interested in the literature professor's opinion of Tolkien if I weren't so sure it was mostly snobbery. Notice he lumps Tolkien in with a handful of other popular authors enjoyed by the hoi polloi. Another thing, you can't bash Tolkien for shallow characters and then turn around and bash King. An objective reader recognizes King as a fairly good developer of character. Sometimes brilliant. Stu Redman in The Stand is one of my favorite characters ever.

 

 



#2 Rogue30

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 01:50 AM

JackT said:

re Zelazny: The Chronicles of Amber

I remember that it was boring, the story just couldn't start. Maybe, because it was divided into 10 books? Why do you like it so much? Maybe I should give it another chance. I had similar feeling with Wheel of time. My friend told me that "yeah, beginning is weak, but in third book, oh man!" So I decided that I don't want to wait till third book.

JackT said:

re "Overrated":

Well, Tolkien stole the hearts of many people, that is undeniable - literature professors can't change this with their opinions. I just wanted to say that it's a difference between "I don't like it" and "it's vastly overrated", just like there is a difference between "you shouldn't say that" and "you must not say that". Anyway I didn't want to offend anyone, seems like LaughingTree was a little angry at me.

BTW G. Martin said during interview that he is very flattered when their call him american Tolkien. So is that mean, he is a liar/hypocrite? Did he only say that, because it was nice and proper to say this at the moment? I don't think so. I think he is really flattered.

JackT said:

re Literature Professors and Popular Literature:

That's different discussion and because of my weak english it's tough for me to continue, so I will only say that this no female characters/feminist stuff is at least weird for me.

 



#3 LaughingTree

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 04:18 AM

On overrated: 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the adjective "overrated" as basically people having a higher opinion of something (someone) than it deserves. Since it is all relative to the individual it all comes down to personal, subjective taste. I don't believe anyone can legitimately say "You shouldn't say that is overrated" because that is essentially saying that something is beyond reproach, beyond any criticism whatsoever. It is putting a single piece of subject art on such a high pedestal that you believe it cannot be criticized. To me that comment itself is basically proof that people value something too high. They don't think anyone is justified in calling something "overrated".  I said seveal times previous to that post that all taste is subjective and personal. So is how you rate something. Just because something is popular or has a cult like following does not mean it is above criticism and above being called overrated by others. Its all subjective and no one or one group's opinion is more relevant than another. I can name a whole bunch of movies/art/music that is similar. Titanic "stole the hearts of many people" , and yet others call it one of the most overrated movies of all time. Are those people not allowed to hold the opinion that Titanic is overrated just because it is popular and "stole the hearts of many people"? Same for Rocky Horror Picture Show which has a cult-like fanatical following among people who absolutely love it but others think it is not very good and overrated. So because something has fanatical devoted fans, no one should ever say something is "overrated"? Of course not. To claim something like "you shouldn't say that is overrated" to me is like saying "This is OBJECTIVELY great work of art and no one is allowed to have an opinion otherwise". I don't like people going around telling others they "shouldn't say" something and then the name calling implying someone is an "ignorant fool" for having an opinion different than others. To me that is going too far. You don't have the right to tell others what they should or shouldn't say. You can disagree and have a reasoned debate but I personally never tell others what they "should" or "shouldn't" say.

IMO people are allowed to think and say anything is overrated because no subjective work of art is appealing to everyone. That doesn't mean there is something wrong with a minority opinion on a specific work. Especially if they can provide solid reasons for thinking something is overrated as I did with LotR.  To any individual person the "average rating" of fans could be too high.  I'll give another example of something that was rated quite highly but I thought was overrated: the movie Crash which won Academy Awards. I had friends tell me it was one of the 5 best movies ever made. But then I saw it and I grew up in Los Angeles. I thought it was overrated because having grown up in the city it portrays, I felt the movie did not reflect my experience in actually living in the city and perpetrated stereotypes in ways that was unrealistic. Some people loved that movie and it won Oscars but I thought it was overrated. Are people never allowed to say a movie that won Oscars are overrated simply because a select group loved the movie? Again, I don't think so. Anyone *should* be able to claim anything is overrated provided they support their takes with reasons and evidence.

 

 

On Lit Professors:

JackT, there was a difference in the criticism of Tolkien and Stephen King. King was not criticized for the Lit professor for the same reasons as Tolkien. Students were discourage from using those books for term papers (although not banned explicitly just discouraged) for different reasons. Tolkien was discouraged for the reasons I mentioned (no female characters, lack of character development, etc) but King was discouraged for different reasons: poor sentence structure and writing style. Both were classified as "genre fiction" but for different reasons.

And snobbery takes all shapes and forms. I'll just say that in nerd sub-cultures (fantasy included) there is also more than a little snobbery among some fanatical fans.



#4 Saturnine

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 06:01 AM

If the term 'overrated' is completely or largely subjective, then it loses its purpose. I'm not saying all literature should be examined and held to some common standard, on the contrary, I think different literature holds different meaning to different people in different times and places. But if the term becomes so watered down, it is no more right to say something is overrated (because the term's implies some sort of common denominator) than you find it wrong to say "you shouldn't say X is overrated". I'm not trying to tell you what you can or cannot say, but I find the use of the term by your own standards ludicrous.

If you think Tolkien's writing has gotten more academic attention and credit than you reckon it warrants, I would disagree (unless you think it warrants more or less none at all, in which case it has gotten more). Tolkien's fiction has not been given much attention in academia at all (aside from a handful of recent scholars). Tolkien was an expert linguist with a vast knowledge of old and middle English literature, and while you are free to not enjoy his style (I had trouble with it in the beginning as well), there is much to discover in his writings in terms of crafty usage of language, usage and reference of medieval literature, interconnectedness of his works and literary theory and warrants as much study as any other author.

If you think Tolkien has gotten too much love outside of academia, well, I don't really have anything to say about that.

You can think of Tolkien what you like, but first going on about the subjectivity of opinions and then using the term overrated which by implication devalues the opinion of others is - for lack of a better word - odd.

On a side note, I find the reasoning that Tolkien has no female characters/no character development and such makes for a subject of literary examination hilarioius (not because it is or isn't true, though I find the argument reveals an only superficial understanding of Tolkien's writing), but because it is such a bad reason in general.



#5 Rogue30

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 06:16 AM

LaughingTree said:

I don't like people going around telling others they "shouldn't say" something and then the name calling implying someone is an "ignorant fool" for having an opinion different than others.

You misunderstood me then, I guess. I don't know how to say it properly in english. I tried to underline that you can say whatever you like, didn't I? You can say you don't like Tolkien, you can say that Gollum is feminist manifest or something. You have a right for your opinions, it's just better not to say "it's vastly overrated" - this way there will be no confusion that you take other people ratings as "vastly wrong", that's all. In the end, someone may think that you are doing the same thing: calling all those other people as tasteless and stupid, becuse you have different opinion, while in fact Tolkien is highly esteemed (and not only by fanboys) whether you like it or not.



#6 LaughingTree

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 06:35 AM

Saturnine said:

If the term 'overrated' is completely or largely subjective, then it loses its purpose. I'm not saying all literature should be examined and held to some common standard, on the contrary, I think different literature holds different meaning to different people in different times and places. But if the term becomes so watered down, it is no more right to say something is overrated (because the term's implies some sort of common denominator) than you find it wrong to say "you shouldn't say X is overrated". I'm not trying to tell you what you can or cannot say, but I find the use of the term by your own standards ludicrous.

If you think Tolkien's writing has gotten more academic attention and credit than you reckon it warrants, I would disagree (unless you think it warrants more or less none at all, in which case it has gotten more). Tolkien's fiction has not been given much attention in academia at all (aside from a handful of recent scholars). Tolkien was an expert linguist with a vast knowledge of old and middle English literature, and while you are free to not enjoy his style (I had trouble with it in the beginning as well), there is much to discover in his writings in terms of crafty usage of language, usage and reference of medieval literature, interconnectedness of his works and literary theory and warrants as much study as any other author.

If you think Tolkien has gotten too much love outside of academia, well, I don't really have anything to say about that.

You can think of Tolkien what you like, but first going on about the subjectivity of opinions and then using the term overrated which by implication devalues the opinion of others is - for lack of a better word - odd.

On a side note, I find the reasoning that Tolkien has no female characters/no character development and such makes for a subject of literary examination hilarioius (not because it is or isn't true, though I find the argument reveals an only superficial understanding of Tolkien's writing), but because it is such a bad reason in general.

 

1. Overrated is a word that is/has been used by all sorts of entertainment critics and other artist/musician/filmmaker types that grew up in Los Angeles around me where there is usually a majority opinion and the term "overrated" is often used to just signify that to one individual's opinion, the majority is rating something too highly. I honestly have never, ever heard people criticize the use of the phrase "overrated" or talk about how it loses value. I am not sure when you guys think the term is even appropriate to use based on what you've written.

2. I was never actually criticizing Tolkien in general but was specific discussing the LotR 3 books so its a bit of a strawman for you to misstate my specific criticisms. I actually enjoyed The Silmarillion more than his novels. Also I never once said Tolkien has gotten too much attention in academia. What I was referring to was the combination of popular Top 100 book lists that LotR is on and the opinions of fan-boys that I have known in real life who I believe rate Tolkien too highly.

3. You have declared that my criticism of lack of any female character depth or development is a "bad reason" but you have not provided a reason why. I also did not say Tolkien has "no character development", I said he has very shallow character development relative to other books I have read.

Your whole post is a bit of a strawman and could be said to be only a superficial understanding of my criticism.

 

@Rogue30

I understand what you are trying to say now I think. However around the film industry here in Hollywood the term "overrated" gets used all the time and no one really thinks people who use it are saying anyone else is "vastly wrong" or anything like calling them "tasteless or stupid". That is drawing way more inferences into the term than is ever done around here.

Around here, its simply a common way of saying that one person does not rate a work of art/music/film as highly as some official ratings or majority ratings. Very likely you live around a different culture with different connotations of words and that is why you perceive the term overrated quite differently than I do.



#7 Rogue30

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 06:46 AM

LaughingTree said:

Around here, its simply a common way of saying that one person does not rate a work of art/music/film as highly as some official ratings or majority ratings.

Ok, got it. ~I just wanted to save you from those maniac Tolkien fans, they can eat you alive for blasphemy.



#8 LaughingTree

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 07:36 AM

Rogue30 said:

LaughingTree said:

Around here, its simply a common way of saying that one person does not rate a work of art/music/film as highly as some official ratings or majority ratings.

 

Ok, got it. ~I just wanted to save you from those maniac Tolkien fans, they can eat you alive for blasphemy.

 

haha fair enough. And I have experienced exactly what you mean a long time ago as a teenager ;)

 

 

On Amber:

I wanted to add on Amber series.  First the books are much shorter than Wheel of Time so getting through 2 books does not take very long if you have time to sit down and read for a few hours at once. But, the first two books are very much set-up books and getting you used to characters like Corwin and his family like brothers Eric, Bleys, Caine, Random and Brand and sisters Fiona, Deidre. The series really takes off in the third book where the intrigue and plot twists start going crazy, Sign of the Unicorn. The fourth book Hand of Oberon is one of my favorite books of all time. Courts of Chaos the fifth book is also excellent. The later 5 books are basically a separate storyline that occurs after the first 5 and focuses more on interactions and history of the Courts of Chaos while the first 5 are more Amber. There are just some great unique concepts in Amber series (the playing cards, the Pattern, the 'shadow worlds' lying between Amber and the Courts of Chaos) and some great supporting characters like Dworkin and Mandor. So I can see why someone might take a bit to get into the series but it really is a quick read for 5 books comparatively (way shorter than reading the first five books of the Malazan saga).



#9 JackT

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 01:42 PM

Hmm... I recall the Amber books being pretty absorbing from the get-go, it has been awhile since I last read them.

Another series that comes to mind that you never see anymore is Moorcock's Elric series. Whatever happened to those?

Somebody mentioned Rothfuss before and I have to say his first two Kingkiller books are outstanding.

The one author I recommend as the absolute best writer of Fantasy of all time is Gene Wolfe. If you have not read his Torturer trilogy then you must do so immediately.



#10 JackT

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Posted 10 May 2011 - 01:43 PM

Oh and regarding Robert Jordan, once you are 10 books in you are pretty much committed. Whatever his faults, though, he is a million times better than Terry Goodkind, who is just awful IMO.

 



#11 LaughingTree

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 06:00 AM

JackT said:

Hmm... I recall the Amber books being pretty absorbing from the get-go, it has been awhile since I last read them.

Another series that comes to mind that you never see anymore is Moorcock's Elric series. Whatever happened to those?

Somebody mentioned Rothfuss before and I have to say his first two Kingkiller books are outstanding.

The one author I recommend as the absolute best writer of Fantasy of all time is Gene Wolfe. If you have not read his Torturer trilogy then you must do so immediately.

 

Oh good choice on Gene Wolfe. There were actually 4 books in his Book of the New Sun series (shadow of torturer, claw of the conciliator, sword of the lictor and citadel of the autarch). I absolutely loved those 4 books. They were truly amazing and I agree with JackT that everyone into any sort of sci-fi/fantasy should read the Book of the New Sun. The tale of Severian is haunting and powerful.

 

And while I was looking up the name of the books I saw another somewhat classic author of sci-fi/fantasy: Jack Vance and the Dying Earth series.



#12 JackT

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 06:24 AM

Yes, so now you are touching on the road that got me to Gormanghast, which I hated.

I discovered that Wolfe was heavily influenced by Vance, whose Dying Earth stuff I read, and thought was only okay. And then I think it was that Vance was influenced by Peake, so I read Gormanghast....



#13 Rogue30

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 10:26 AM

I'm curious: is it possible to buy in your country books of Andrzej Sapkowski (The Witcher saga)?



#14 Venryk

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 03:26 AM

Yes you can get the Witcher series sort of. The publisher went from Last Wish to Blood of Elves and omitted Sword of Destiny. It is a shame that they made that decision. Sword of Destiny is missed.

 

On Amber I was hooked from the start. I don't remember it starting slow and I reread it 8 months ago. I believe it starts of very fast.

 

I am a Tolkien fan but I would only place Two Towers in my top 100 and near the bottom at best maybe not at all. Great world realization but not great books. There are far too many excellent books to think that Tolkien's works are that good. He had/has a great impact on the genre but that does not equal great writing. I think we allow nostalgia to color our view of how great things are. We remember things better than they were actually pulled off. I challenge you to read your favorite Tolkien book and read a book by one of your other favorites authors and compare them side by side. There will be a huge difference.

 

On author recommendations. Jennifer Fallon is a fantastic Austrailian author.



#15 LaughingTree

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 09:43 AM

Rogue30 said:

 

I'm curious: is it possible to buy in your country books of Andrzej Sapkowski (The Witcher saga)?

 

 

I have not seen these books but after checking they appear to available online. I havent seen them in a bookstore.


If you recommend highly I will check them out.

 

But next week is the newest book (Embassytown) by China Mieville who is one of my absolute favorite authors so that is going to get read next week as it comes out May 17 in the States. After that Ill check out your Witcher saga hopefully.



#16 Skowza

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Posted 13 May 2011 - 03:56 PM

JackT said:

Hmm... I recall the Amber books being pretty absorbing from the get-go, it has been awhile since I last read them.

Another series that comes to mind that you never see anymore is Moorcock's Elric series. Whatever happened to those?

Somebody mentioned Rothfuss before and I have to say his first two Kingkiller books are outstanding.

The one author I recommend as the absolute best writer of Fantasy of all time is Gene Wolfe. If you have not read his Torturer trilogy then you must do so immediately.


 

+1 on the Gene Wolfe, one could probably read the New Sun series 10 times and still find something new in it the eleventh time through.  For those who havent read it, the complexity of the series is often compared to Gravity's Rainbow (New Sun is totally worth reading though, unlike that monstrosity).  The other 8 books that make up the complete Solar Cycle are also worth it, and are far easier to read.

Amber Chronicles are also very good, the first five books were much better than the last five imho.

I tried to read Elric and absolutely  hated it.  It was recommended by a friend of mine who usually has great taste in books, I was very disappointed with it - it struck me as kind of a farce of itself though, like Moorcock couldnt decide if he was writing something serious or farsical so he settled on something halfway in between.  Enjoyed some of his other work, just not Elric.

As far as Rothfuss goes... I'm afraid I fall into the group of people who thought Name of the Wind was excellent, but Wise Man's Fear was very sub-par.  I'll surely pick up the third book when it comes out, but not looking forward to trudging back through WMF.  ~And I'll bet he frequently gets listed as a comteporary of GRRM because it took four years to get us a second book.

The one that I'm really big on is R. Scott Bakker, and I rarely hear mention of his work anywhere.  Check out the Prince of Nothing series if you are looking for a really really good dark fantasy read.



#17 JackT

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Posted 14 May 2011 - 04:02 PM

Will check out Baker. I'm actually looking for someone good who I have not read, and it's getting harder. Right now I'm polishing off the miscellaneous Neal Asher books I hadn't read previously.

 



#18 Rogue30

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Posted 15 May 2011 - 03:33 AM

Venryk said:

The publisher went from Last Wish to Blood of Elves and omitted Sword of Destiny.

That's a shame!

LaughingTree said:

If you recommend highly I will check them out.

That's my number 1 However as I checked on wiki there is no more than short stories (Last wish) and first book of the novel at the moment. So you would have to wait for next translations. I guess you can try Last wish though.






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