Richard Morgan vs J. R. R. Tolkien

Earlier this week, Richard Morgan wrote an essay which was posted on Suvudu and which caused a bit of a stir. I'm posting the essay here, but do check out the original post as Suvudu to see the discussion Morgan's piece engendered.

Not much of a Tolkien fan myself, I think the author sums it up perfectly and hits the nail right on the head in the first paragraph of his essay.

Richard Morgan's The Steel Remains (Canada, USA, Europe) has been released in the USA last month.

Here's the essay:

I’m not much of a Tolkien fan - not since I was about twelve or fourteen anyway (which, it strikes me, is about the right age to read and enjoy his stuff). But it would be a foolish writer in the fantasy field who failed to acknowledge the man’s overwhelming significance in the canon. And it would be a poor and superficial reader of Tolkien who failed to acknowledge that in amongst all the overwrought prose, the nauseous paeans to class-bound rural England, and the endless bloody elven singing that infests The Lord of the Rings, you can sometimes discern the traces of a bleak underlying human landscape which is completely at odds with the epic fantasy narrative for which the book is better known.

That little twist of urban angst quoted above is one such trace. It comes at the end of The Two Towers and is part of an on-going set of dialogues between two orc captains at the tower of Cirith Ungol. And for a while - until Tolkien remembers these are Bad Guys and sends the wearyingly Good and Wholesome Sam up against them - we get a fascinating insight into life for the rank and file in Mordor. The orcs are disenchanted, poorly informed and constantly stressed by the uncertainties that lack of information brings. They suspect that the war might be going badly for their side, and that their commanders, far from being infallible, seem to be making some serious errors of judgment. They worry that if their side loses, they can expect scant mercy from their victorious enemies. They mutter their misgivings sotto voce because they know that there are informers in the ranks and a culture of enforcement through terror bearing down from above. They also seem possessed of a rough good humour and some significant loyalty to the soldiers they command. And they’re not enjoying the war any more than Frodo or Samwise; they want it to be over just as much as anybody else.

For me, this is some of the finest, most engaging work in The Lord of the Rings. It feels - perhaps a strange attribute for a fantasy novel - real. Suddenly, I'm interested in these orcs. Gorbag is transformed by that one laconic line about the city, from slavering brutish evil-doer to world-weary (almost noir-ish) hard-bitten survivor. The simplistic archetypes of Evil are stripped away and what lies beneath is - for better or brutal worse - all too human. This is the real meat of the narrative, this is the telling detail (as Bradbury's character Faber from Fahrenheit 451 would have it), no Good, no Evil, just the messy human realities of a Great War as seen from ground level. And I don't think it's a stretch to say that what you're probably looking at here are the fossil remnants of Tolkien's first-hand experiences in his own Great War, as he passed through the hellish trenches and the slaughter of the Somme in 1916.

The great shame is, of course, that Tolkien was not able (or inclined) to mine this vein of experience for what it was really worth - in fact he seemed to be in full, panic-stricken flight from it. I suppose it's partially understandable - the generation who fought in the First World War got to watch every archetypal idea they had about Good and Evil collapse in reeking bloody ruin around them. It takes a lot of strength to endure something like that and survive, and then to re-draw your understanding of things to fit the uncomfortable reality you've seen. Far easier to retreat into simplistic nostalgia for the faded or forgotten values you used to believe in. So by the time we get back to Cirith Ungol in The Return of the King, Gorbag and his comrades have been conveniently shorn of their more interesting human character attributes and we're back to the cackling slavering evil out of Mordor from a children's bedtime story. Our glimpse of something more humanly interesting is gone, replaced once more by the ponderous epic tones of Towering Archetypal Evil pitted against Irritatingly Radiant Good (oh - and guess who wins).

Well, I guess it's called fantasy for a reason.

I only wonder why on earth anyone (adult) would want to read something like that.

And I've written a fantasy novel for all those adults who wouldn't.

Hope you like it.

63 commentaires:

isis said...

I only wonder why on earth anyone (adult) would want to read something like that.

And I've written a fantasy novel for all those adults who wouldn't.


Ew. Even ignoring the rest of the piece completely, those lines are rather distasteful.

I have to wonder about relatively unknown authors' motives for Tolkien-bashing. Do they think to snag readers who feel they are too clever for Tolkien? Why do they feel the need to compare the works of others unfavourably with their own? Are readers expected to choose a single author at the expense of all others?

As I said, not really sure what the point is, but it's not likely to work anyway.

Myshkin said...

Firstly, let me say that I agree mostly with Morgan's take on LotR; I've never really understood why it is held up as the greatest of the great. That being said, I have several problems with his essay, the first of which is the way in which Morgan calls Tolkien's courage into question; I think it's more than a bit presumptuous for a man who has never experienced war to make such judgments about Tolkien's courage based only on his writing. And, like the poster above, I have problems with the last two lines of the essay. It makes me question Morgan's motives in writing the essay when he ends it by questioning the maturity of Tolkien fans and offering his own works as a way to prove maturity.

Anonymous said...

Blah blah blah. More Tolkien hate. Funny part is 50 years from now, snobby writers in the genre will still bash Tolkien, and they will have forgotten who Richard Morgan and China Meiville are.

Anonymous said...

The original essay is posted on Suvudu (Random House), and will be published in Del Rey's Drin newsletter. (I believe Richard was asked to write an essay by his editor. according to the Suvudo comments). When put in context the last two lines of the essay make sense.

And I believe it should be okay for publishers and authors to promote their books.

To Anonymous: I've seen your post elsewhere, so let me ask you: Do you have a crystal ball that you'll know who'll be remembered 50 years from now? I didn't have a sense of any "snobbishness" or "Tolkien hate" from this essay: maybe you're jumping to conclusions.

Anonymous said...

Just my guess about the future, that's all. When you basically call Tolkien's works kids stuff, that is snobbishness. Like his book is so superior because it is for grown ups. Having lots of graphic sex and violence might make it "rated R", but it doesn't mean it's better than Tolkien.

Icarium said...

Dear anonymous, as per Tolkien himself, his stuff is KID'S STUFF. It lacks most of the complications required to be a good adult book and maybe you should try to grow up a bit, it might help you understand.

Adam Whitehead said...

As is usual in these debates, the person criticising Tolkien talks about Lord of the Rings exclusively, because of course if they strayed onto talking about The Silmarillion it would utterly destroy their arguments.

Guess what boys, Tolkien was doing the nihilistic, everybody-dies, incest-strawn "dark 'n' gritty," fantasy long before you were.

TheDude said...

@Icarium:
a good adult's novel has to be complicated to read?

Give me a few examples,please. Enlighten us!

And move out of your parents basement!

Anonymous said...

Any alcoholic or drug addict can give you their side of the story. Oh yeah, they can tell you why their spouse was a prick for divorcing them, or why it was OK to steal Mom's piggy bank two days after she passed away, or why they were "justified" in stealing and forging a check for $5000. Yes there are always two sides of the story, and you can listen to them if you really want to. But sometimes bad is just bad.

A good fantasy novel to me is about exploring a new world. Meeting new and different species, different magic, and give you an overall sense of adventure. I think Lord of the Rings gives us that. You can nit/pick anything if you really want to, but is it always "justified" to do so?

Adam said...

Lord of the Rings is unique from genre sludge like Morgan's work because it possesses the rare, literary quality that elevates some books to stand the test of time over others: it tells more than an engaging story; it also speaks about the human condition.

While the imaginative, dramatic, and character-driven elements are all strong in Tolkien's Trilogy, the thematic element is by far what keeps people revisiting it forty-something years after it was published. There are a number of themes we could point to, such as the high costs of industrialization or state worship, for example, but one would be hard pressed to call any of them childish.

While I do think there are other works of fantasy that can be called literature, such as Wolfe's Book of the New Sun, Kay's Tigana, Pullman's His Dark Materials, and certainly Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, these works are few and far between, and are rarely appreciated by readers outside of this particular genre. Tolkien has rightfully earned his own scholarly tradition and I would remind an author like Morgan that he hasn't quite reached that level of esteem.

Anonymous said...

Icarium, Are you sure you know who needs to grow up??

Lowkey said...

Richard Who? Seriously though before I read this I was interested in reading Black Man/Thirteen and Steel Remains, now I am no longer interested. In any thing you should respect the greats that came before you and laid the groundwork for what you are now doing as a career

Chris said...

I can understand people not liking the whole Ultimate Good vs. Ultimate Evil thing, but I can't wrap my head around sentiments such as "Tolkien should have written it as a grittier story".

Didn't Tolkien set out to write LOTR as a mytholical-ish story? One based on tales of epic Good vs. Evil?

As such, that latter sentiment strikes me as odd as complaining that a spicy tuna roll is too spicy, contains too much tuna, and that spicy tuna rolls in general should taste more like steak.

Anonymous said...

Wow, let's all bow down and worship at the altar of Tolkien.

And hex on anyone who has anything negative to say about the great god Tolkien.

Bitchy, people, you haven't given any good arguments, just a bunch of emotional "how dare he, who does he think he is to question my hero".

Ed S. said...

Yes, every author should certainly endeavor to promote themselves and their works but I've always found it rather distasteful when they do so by stomping on the corpse of another author. I suppose that Morgan might have some justification if his book was that great, but it's not.

Anonymous said...

*Yawn*

Another author trying to tell us how BAD Tolkien is.
How about writing a book that blows us away?

Oooops.
Okay, that didn't work for Mr. Miéville either.

*Shakes head*

clindsay said...

Actually, the majority of the conversation actually took place over on my blog. It became a heated and intelligent debate that lasted two days. Richard was good enough to come in and respond to most of the comments.

The two threads are here and here.

Marc said...

Adam and Chris beat me to the punch in making a couple of points. They probably stated it better than I would have.

But the points remain true, at least to me. Tolkien DID write gritty and harsh, it is how he started out, in The Silmarillion (really, in The Book of Lost Tales). He also wrote childrens' books, and after the success of one of these, The Hobbit, tried to get his gritty material published. It was too far ahead of its time, and the publisher asked for more Hobbit-like material. So Tolkien then, almost by accident, combined many hints of the gritty earlier stories into the Hobbit-sequel, as the history of the writing of LOTR shows, and it became a bigger success. It combined elements of classic mythology with an accessible, modern style, and helped spawn a genre of fiction.

These days, readers of imaginative fiction often seek out gritty, morally ambiguous stories. In this environment, The Silmarillion and offshoots such as The Children of Hurin are gaining a new appreciation. Anyone judging Tolkien's writing should take this into account, and move beyond The Hobbit and LOTR.

thornofcamorr said...

I never did like Richard Morgan.

Anonymous said...

I have no desire to read any of Richard Morgan's books now. None.

marina-bonomi said...

I used to come here very often, Pat, out of curiosity, sometimes finding books to add to my wishlist, other times wondering at some titles you waxed enthusiastic about that I would definitely not want to read...
I don't think i'll come so often anymore, simply because this post has made me realize how fundamentally different our tastes are (given that you say you basically agree with the author).

You see, professor Tolkien did not write 'fantasy novels', he attempted to write a mythology for England, something like the corpus of legends that must have existed and was lost with time. He did not write novels, he wrote sagas in the real meaning of the word. That 'overblown prose' interspersed with the songs that mr. Morgan finds so distasteful is the prose of the Edda, and, for me, professor Tolkien's 'Middle-Earth' corpus is right there with both Eddas, the Kalevala, the Beowulf, the Song of Roland, the Iliad...the kind of books that are, to me, dear friends to be visited again and again, while so many modern fantasy novels are just passing acquaintances, pleasant to spend a few hours with, but soon forgotten.

Guess I must be hopelessy out of date, and you know what? I couldn't care less.

marina-bonomi said...

icarium: "as per Tolkien himself, his stuff is KID'S STUFF"

Which stuff? In his letters every time the matter comes up Tolkien says that while 'The Hobbit' was for children, the Lord of the Rings definitely wasn't (and the Silmarillion isn't, by any possible definition).

May I suggest you check your sources?

Anonymous said...

Richard who???

Maurice said...

Marina does bring something up that I wanted to myself, mainly Tolkien's goals with writing the Silmarillion, but in all fairness to get the Silmarillion published, he had to publish The Hobbit and LoTR.

I do see Tolkien's work as a complete 'real' mythology and it does hurt to read criticism of him of any kind because I feel that some people don't 'get' what he set out to do.

I greatly admire Morgan and Mieville, but I think Morgan very unfairly insults adults that like Tolkien. I will read the comments on The Swivet tommorrow to see what else Morgan had to say on the subject.

Anonymous said...

Maurice:

Yes, please do read the Suvudu posts tomorrow - it makes the posts here seem extremely juvenile.

Anonymous said...

Errrr....


I only wonder why on earth anyone (adult) would want to read something like that.

And I've written a fantasy novel for all those adults who wouldn't.

Hope you like it.


'Nuff said!

pmad said...

The essey seems quite trollish to me
- I realy hate negative promotion.

"Why do people read Tolkien?" - you asked.
"Why do people read fantasy at all?" - I ask.
The answer is the same.

I think that GRRM summed it up quite well:
http://www.wperu.com.pe/videos/index.php?tag=GRRM

Patrick said...

Just wanted to add a little something here. If you believe that Miéville and Morgan are a bit harsh regarding Tolkien, then you should hear what many SFF authors say about the master "off the record."

I have the utmost respect for Tolkien, and none of us would be here discussing fantasy novels and series on this blog if not for him and his work. Having said that, I was never able to get into LotR. I finished the series and the last volume was quite good, but it took everything I had to go through those books back in the days. Sue me.

But if you think that most SFF writers hold the man in high esteem, you are wrong. Both Miéville and Morgan took some heat for shouting out loud what many people think but won't say, knowing that to do so will not sit well with many SFF fans.

I'm just saying...

Anonymous said...

Tolkien was a brilliant, educated man. Tolkien fought in one of the most brutal wars in human history. Tolkien had a love of wife and family which could easily be a model to many. Tolkien was an intellectual and moral giant, who kept close company with many of similar talents and moral fiber. Tolkien knew far more about both "grit" and "honor" than Morgan does now or ever will.

I've read many of Morgan's books and have read his blog a few times. Though he is a talented writer, he is also a whiny, moody, self-righteous b!@#h.

Tolkien, despite suffering (and living) far more than Morgan ever has or will, always remained a gentleman. Too bad the same can't be said for Morgan.

Steve Moss, Arizona USA

Best Fantasy and Science Fiction said...

Tolkien made some great books that are easy reads, albeit lengthy for a child's book. Every time I open the series again, including the Hobbit, I remember why children and adults alike have enjoyed them repeatedly; Middle Earth is an amazing place and the imagination runs wild filling in the gaps Tolkien left for us. Just look at all of the artwork and fiction based upon this single work. Truly amazing!

Ken from Langley, BC said...

When comparing anything from different times you must remember that in todays light alot of things from the past seem lesser.

The issue I have is when an artist calls into question another artists works. You dont see any of todays great artists calling the Monet crap and you dont see Wayne Gretzky calling Henri Richard a chump.

I am sure if it wasnt for writers like Mr. Tolkien, Mr. Morgan would be your local garbage man.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for coming out of the closet Pat.

You and other jealous hack writers will die bitter while the legacy of tolkein steamrolls the one hit wonders that grew in his wake.

You also illustrate great ignorance in criticizing the man and not reading all of his works(lost tales,etc...)

I say BOYCOTT the spoiled brats like Pat and the other authors, don't buy a one book and show these petulant chumps that their emulous snobbery is not very healthy.
;)

marina-bonomi said...

Quote :
If you believe that Miéville and Morgan are a bit harsh regarding Tolkien, then you should hear what many SFF authors say about the master "off the record." (unquote)

sorry if I'm thick, but...I don't see how it matters. We where commenting about mr. Morgan and what *he* writes, not the (referred) opinion of other writers.

Anyway, many of them seem to believe than an 'adult' book *has to have* gore and graphic sex, I beg to differ, much of that very often seems gratuitous to me.

Many want 'moral ambiguity' and run at the only mention of absolute evil, I, for one, just like Tolkien, believe that absolute evil *does* exist, even though humans are often morally ambiguous and, BTW, isn't Boromir ambiguous, wantimg to use the 'weapon of evil' for a good end? Is not Wormtongue a victim of sort, falling for Saruman's honeyed words and then being torn in two by an hope of salvation he can't believe in anymore?

Frankly it seems to me that some people clamoring for 'shades' are unable to see them if those 'shades' aren't very loud and obvious.

Anyway Tolkien said it himself (quoting from memory):

"Many people have criticized The Lord of the Rings, I'm not surprised, even by the harsher critiques by modernist critics, I think the same about the books °they° like."

Anonymous said...

First let me say I read and enjoyed The Steel Remains. It made me wanna read Takesi Kovacs novels even though I do not read SF, normally. I am even more intrigued by Market Forces and I will read it sooner rather than later. So, you may say I am potential fan of Mr. Morgan.

Further, I have no problems with most of the statements in the essay. Really. This is an example of two differing views, separated by 60 years of social evolution...or is it 60 years of social degradation?

Tolkien is archaic. His values are archaic. His views are ultra-conservative for today's circumstances. But what he also is...is CLASSIC. Today nobody watches Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton or early Hitchcock and great many other geniuses of classic film art. But they are still classics. They are shown on academias around the world, they are debated and admired, but nobody in the right mind would make movies that way.

The world has moved in the past 60 years and modern man may find a lot of things in Tolkien's style almost unbearable. After all, Tolkien was conservative even in his time.

What you can't take away from Tolkien is that the world he imagined and created surpasses by far all the other known fantasy worlds in richness and in detail. People often forget that the simple beauty of his story is equaled by none. The guy invented a language! A whole language with its semantics and phonetics and characters and grammar.

It seems that today it's stylish to make your name by spitting on Tolkien. Maybe that proves that he's still taking place (and sales figures) others crave for.

TheDude said...

@Patrick:

I've read LoTR twice and I can name of the top of my head at least 10 books that I enjoyed more. I'm a moderate fan, but not a big one.

The point to me is not the critics aimed at Tolkien, but the tone on which they we're given. Mieville a few years ago called Tolkien "the wen in the arse of fantasy". How can someone side with that kind of statement, even if they agree with him or not?

And Morgan in just 2 sentences manages to insult Tolkien and anybody who liked his books.

Criticise all you want. It's your right. But I'm sure you can do it without being snarky or confrontational

Pig Iron said...

Gene Wolfe on Tolkien (touching, even if you don't agree on everything):

http://home.clara.net/andywrobertson/wolfemountains.html

Very interesting Buddhist perspective on LOTR by David Loy (who's a zen-master in the Sanbo-Kyodan line I think):

http://www.bpf.org/tsangha/tsm03report/Karma%20Book/loygoodhew.html

BTW do read Morgan's "The Steel Remains", it's great.

Skyweir said...

I have no problem with the fact that many SFF autors dislike the works of Tolkien.
After all, I dislike most of the work of the SFF genres, because most of it is rather porly written. Some of the worst offenders are the once trying to write "dark and gritty", since few people can make that work.

The idea that LoToR is a simple books is laughable, each time I reread them I discover further ideas and subtle allusions to his other work. They are the rare form of book that can be enjoyed at all ages, because it is both epic and subtle, both stragith forward and deep at the same time.

For those who think that the tale is straigth out good vs evil, they should look into a few of the letters of the autor, as well as his other material. Even Sauron is not the ultimate evil that people often think of, and indeed is nearly redeemed twice before LoToR starts. As for the Noldor and the Edain, well....they aren't as pure of heart as one could wish or even hope for.

LoToR doesn't even end well, nor does the tale have any possible good outcome. The protagonists choose between many terrible ends, and fails to accomplish the one they chose. Only "luck", if you will, saves them from utter annihaliton.
And even then, what they retain is a grey and wartorn world, a mundane shadow of their home.

Mr. Morgan can keep his "adult" fantasy. The real world has enough of that already. Still, he might consider acctualy making some compelling characters to inhabit his works and as deeply realished a world as Middle-Earth, if he wish to retain the adults that are not just out to get a cheap thrill...

Anonymous said...

Well. Have to admit, I think Tolkien is very much not enjoyable as well. I am a big fantasy fan but I really didn't like Tolkien and things he was a great world builder but not a good writer.

Darkstar
www.fantasy-news.com

Roland said...

Actually, Tolkien has been a great influence on Fantasy, but he was not the ONLY great influence and if he hadn't written LotR, someone else would have taken his place. The genre would have looked different but it would have been here and authors would still write in it. To say that Morgan would be someone's garbage man is ridiculous, especially given the fact that he is mostly an SF writer.

I do not completely agree with Mr. Morgan, but if anything here is laughable, it's bashing the guy for having this opinion. Many people do. And many people state it the same way. If I recall correctly, Michael Moorcock has also been very critical, to say the least, of Tolkien, and he is an author with an enormous influence over the genre for years. To be a good writer, you have to be a strong person, and that means you're not always overly political.

All that said, I don't very much like LotR either. I think it's not especially good writing, it's dry, two-dimentional and in the end - painfully predictable. All those are in fact not outright defects if we take into consideration Tolkien's purpose in writing it, which was to create a myth. But it doesn't change the facts and those facts aren't necessarily to everybody's liking. I know they aren't to mine.

LotR's greatest strength is that it's accessable. That is also it's greatest sin, since for this very reason it has spawned so many poor imitations. WHICH is in fact the reason that Fantasy is what it is today, but it's also the reason it's so often regarded as second-grade literature.

So let's for once stop the fanboy rant and open our eyes a little, shall we? LotR is no small work, that's for sure, but it's neither the sole parent of Fantasy, nor the greatest book ever written in it. The reason it is still remembered (apart from the movies that DO have a role in it, despite what fans would like to believe) is that it was among the first really significant works in the genre, it became a cult classic in its time, and now we're so far on the road of inertia that for most people its greatness is taken for a fact without ever bothering to analyze it properly.

Chris said...

"I say BOYCOTT the spoiled brats like Pat and the other authors..."

Seriously, that's more than a bit overboard.

Shall we go after everyone who doesn't particularly love Dickens next? The Pickwick Papers is exponentially less engaging and harder to read than LOTR.

Marc said...

I'm amazed to STILL read of people equating Tolkien only with Hobbit stories. The point has been made several times in this thread that if anyone wants to judge Tolkien in a knowledgeable manner, then they need to be able to also discuss The Book of Lost Tales and the Silmarillion mythos (including The Children of Hurin). And if those books are taken into the
equation, then many of the aguments made against tolkien start to fall apart.

Here's a great, if long winded, tribute to Tolkien's First Age writings: http://www.thecimmerian.com/?p=1037

Anonymous said...

Nothing new..... you need to trash the master to try to prove your work transcends his. It doesn't really matter though. LOTR is permanently ingrained into pop culture and beyond, so it's pretty much paper bound in kevlar.

Aaron said...

As far as Pat's comment: This coming from a guy who couldn't finish The Dying Earth =)

Anonymous said...

Damn Pat.
You got owned!
LOL

Roland said...

It is staggering, the immaturity of answers here, especially compared to the discussions from the other links given in the original post and comments...

Dliwir said...

Oh no, he insulted the Holy Books of Fantasy! How dare he! Blasphemy, burn the heretic! /irony

I'm not even going to go into the debate much, but I find the attitude displayed in many comments here rather worrying. This is an opinion, meant to spark a discussion, not a religious war. Why do you feel the urge to defend LotR with such zeal?

Tolkien was a writer, not a prophet. His books certainly were very successful, but that in itself does not say much about the finer qualities of the books. If Richard Morgan argues that Tolkien for the most part fails to transcend the good vs. evil characterisations, that is a valid point. Why that makes him some kind of vicious and greedy warlock that wants to leech the life out of Tolkien for his own benefit is beyond me.

Skyweir said...

But Tolkien did transcend the good and evil paragdigm in a number of areas. That the characters do not stand out and declaim "I am conflicted" by deeds or words like in some other, inferior works I might think of, does not mean it is not there.

I have other qualms about LotoR, and there are certainly problems witht the structure of the books and some rather heavy handed Deus Ex Machina stuff that Tolkien himself admitted later, but it annoys me that people think that the characters are that one sided. Analysis is a lost art, it seems.

Anonymous said...

Well, I enjoy both authors for different reasons .

I've enjoyed Tolkien into my adult life, so I will just imagine that Morgan didn't mean to offend me.

I will also continue to buy Morgan's books at the remainder sales I find them in and enjoy them for the cheap tinsel that they are.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

-Dan

Anonymous said...

Dan,

What do you mean by "cheap tinsel"?

vwanner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vwanner said...

Pat is quite right in mentioning that a large number of authors think similar to Morgan about Tolkien and just never voice it publicly.

Adding one name to the list of authors who do is David Brin.
He has a much longer piece on that topic here:

http://dir.salon.com/story/ent/feature/2002/12/17/tolkien_brin/index.html

Anonymous said...

Definition:

cheap: inexpensive

tinsel: anything showy or attractive with little or no real worth

Again, let me say that I've enjoyed Morgan's Kovacs novels and look forward to reading The Steel Remains. When I buy it at a remainder sale next year.

-Dan

Anonymous said...

Dan,

By "little or no worth" if you are talking about "inexpensive" then never mind.

However, if you are saying his words are of little worth, then I beg to differ. There are so many complex issues pertinent to our world today in his books, (especially Thirteen) I've found them to be quite thoughtful - in fact I read on many blogs they have caused people to think about these issues far after they've finished reading the book.

Take the torture in The Steel Remains. I figured it was medieval type stuff we wouldn't see today. Wrong. I read Dexter Faulkner's "Forever War" and such torture took place in Afghanistan recently. How about slavery? There's nothing like that in today's world, right? No, it's quite common actually. In fact in the news recently a couple in the L.A. area were keeping a young girl as a slave. And so on.

So I personally find his books quite deep and of great worth.

Anonymous said...

Oops, it should read "Dexter Filkins" "The Forever War. Very good book (bestseller) about a reporter's time in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Maurice said...

A bit off topic, but I'd love to know what most authors think of L. Ron Hubbard? This is one author I suspect that many give praise to, but secretly must hate!

Anonymous said...

Yes, I've read Black Man and as I said the Kovacs novels. They are well written books to be sure, and I would not say they were without their worth (I did enjoy them of course) but I would not go so far as to call them deep or thought provoking.

As you say there are elements to these novels which are relevant to the times; be it human rights issues, racism, slavery or torture. Yet they do very little in the way of taking a stance on, or showing insight into these issues. Much less provoke thoughtful discussion about them in a real sense.

They are what they are: well done, albeit cheap, fast, light entertainment. IMHO

-Dan

Anonymous said...

Ah, Dan,

LOL IMHO I'm glad you find them light entertainment. I think it was the word "cheap" that seemed like a cheap shot...

Anonymous said...

Well, Anonymous, I'm glad you find his books such deep, complex, and thought provoking tomes. May you continue to find guidance through them. LOL ;)

I think the real cheap shot was "I only wonder why on earth anyone (adult) would want to read something like that".

IMHO

:D

-Dan

Adam Whitehead said...

"The movies that DO have a role in it, despite what fans would like to believe"

The movies were made because the book was already staggeringly popular. The book had sold somewhere between 150 and 200 million copies before the movies ever came out and had never been out of print. In the last five years before the first movie came out the book won multiple national and international polls to find the most popular book of all time (the Channel 4/Waterstones poll to find the best book of the 20th Century, another poll by the Folio Society, a third by several newspapers) and so on.

The movies have bolstered the book's profile amongst the wider, general audience perhaps, but the book was still the biggest-selling individual SF&F novel of all time before the films came out (as it remains now), the book most people had read and so on. Its impact and popularity without the movies is undeniable.

"We're so far on the road of inertia that for most people its greatness is taken for a fact without ever bothering to analyze it properly."

Lord of the Rings is the single most-analyzed book in the history of the genre. No other genre book has generated more discussion (online or off) or more works of debate and analysis.

"A bit off topic, but I'd love to know what most authors think of L. Ron Hubbard? This is one author I suspect that many give praise to, but secretly must hate!"

BATTLEFIELD EARTH and MISSION EARTH are widely acknowledged as some of the worst SF&F novels ever written by both critics and other authors. No-one really gives praise to Hubbard in public (apart from establishing the Writers of the Future contest, which has given us some good new authors), and are more than happy to rip him apart in reviews.

Anonymous said...

Richard Morgan must have no problem churning out novels as he clearly lives in a fantasy world of his own. For a guy who does not even have enough current recognition to ever be considered forgotten to write anything disparaging about the figurehead of his genre, even if it is a publicity grab, is utterly shameful.

While he may be angry that more people will buy an incomplete collection of stories compiled by Tolkien's son than his "adult novels", Richard Morgan should show some maturity himself and refrain from saying things like "I only wonder why on earth anyone (adult) would want to read something like that". Thats like someone who never advanced beyond high school basketball criticizing Michael Jordan's jumpshot. Ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Agree with Richard morgan %100 why would i want to read about bland sexless one dimensional characters that live in a world that has no relevance or realism that i can connect with.A world should have teeth and sometimes it should bite!

Anonymous said...

You may be right, and The Lord of the Rings may not be the best book ever written, but take this into account as you give your opinion. Tolkien was not a writer but a linguist. He created a language and needed a world, culture, and setting for it. Thus, The Lord of the Rings was written. The comment, " I only wonder why on earth anyone (adult) would want to read something like that.
And I've written a fantasy novel for all those adults who wouldn't."
is very arrogant, as was the tone of the whole essay. Promote your book, criticize Tolkien, do whatever you want, but such pomposity will turn away most people, especially readers of Tolkien.

Anonymous said...

god, fans of tolkein are annoying.