Hello, everyone! As this is my first post of the new year, I thought I would spice things up a bit. For starters, this week’s topic deals with the more violent nature of contemporary fantasy. And secondly, I have a surprise guest who will offer her insights on the matter.
There is no use mincing words. When it comes to fantasy, some of us like it rough. Recently, we have seen an emergence in the more gritty types of fantasy. The most prominent in the mainstream, and the focus for the sake of this article, is George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. As one of HBO’s new golden boys of cable, what we have enjoyed viewing on television has for the most part been accurately pulled from Martin’s A song of Ice and Fire saga. Beginning with Game of Thrones, we plunge into Martin’s Westeros, where we are introduced to numerous characters. The token black and white aspects of the hero and villain are replaced by characters whose actions are continuously shaded in hues of grey. Nobles use profanity, murder, conspire, and partake of wenching. Hmmm…not unlike the historical figures we have idolized throughout the centuries. And there, my beloved readers, is part of the appeal for this genre. It’s more than just fantasy…it’s an edge that at times reflects our darkest natures and mirrors our colorful past. And yes, we enjoy seeing victims run through. In a world inundated with video games, where you can destroy civilizations and shoot cops, I’m afraid the violent streak in fantasy is here to stay…for better or for worse.
In my opinion, what makes a saga such as A song of Ice and Fire work is balance. It has his violent moments, but they are skillfully sewn within the proper context of the story. Once again…BALANCE being the key attribute – a discipline I have tried to implement within my upcoming novel, Shadows of Kings. But my personal appeal for the darker side of fantasy does not in any way discount the work of writers who refrain from using vulgarity or excessive violence. After all, the Father of contemporary fantasy, J.R.R Tolkien, kept it at arm’s length when he wrote the Lord of the Rings. And speaking of Middle-Earth, that brings me to the introduction of my guest. And who better to speak in Tolkien’s absence, then one of his living relatives who also writes fantasy? Fellow viewers and subscribers, I’m pleased to introduce J.R.R. Tolkien’s great-great niece, Robin Lovejoy Tolkien – Author of Banshee in the Well.
Hello and thanks for welcoming me to JWhitsel.wordpress.com. I’m very much looking forward to the release of Shadows of Kings. I’m a middle grade fantasy author myself (that is, writing for the 8-13 age range) so obviously I have to be careful with the fight scenes – and adult scenes are of course a complete no-no. But this kind of brings things around in a circle, given that The Hobbit movie is to be released at the end of this year. The Hobbit novel itself, first published in 1937, was undoubtedly aimed at middle readers and indeed it was accepted for publication after the manuscript was read by Rayner Unwin, a ten-year-old relative of the owners of Allen & Unwin. Young Rayner concluded that The Hobbit ‘should appeal to children between the ages of 5 and 9.’ I doubt he would have said exactly that about The Fellowship of the Ring, first published in 1954. The Lord of the Rings is of course by far a more complex piece, and without doubt it contains what might be termed violent scenes, Helms’ Deep being but one example. But the most notable difference between Lord of the Rings and the works of modern fantasy writers such as George R R Martin is the presence of what we Brits euphemistically term ‘adult scenes.’ Would Lord of the Rings have been a better book had adult scenes been included? Of course not! But the world has moved on since 1954 and it’s only right that modern fantasy reflects the changing times. George R R Martin is without doubt a brilliant writer. The only thing I would say about some (lesser) modern fantasy writers is that there can be a tendency to overdo the adult scenes. In my view, high fantasy benefits from a bit of political allegory. Some writers seem to disagree and take the attitude: ‘forget the political intrigue, let’s have another sexual encounter.’ I can well understand why an author can get carried away with such scenes but as Jack says it’s a question of BALANCE – and I agree with him 100% on that. So best of luck, Jack, I’ll certainly be buying a copy of Shadow of Kings when it comes out!”
And that’s a wrap for my first article of the year. A big Yankee hug and thanks to Robin Lovejoy Tolkien, for taking the time to contribute her insight. And please grab her new release, Banshee in the Well. http://www.amazon.com/Banshee-in-the-Well-ebook/dp/B006S4ZP2K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1325503712&sr=8-1
Please visit Robin’s blog at http://sathra-bansheeinthewell.blogspot.com/
Until next time,
Read Full Post »