Since this is the latest SFF discussion which has created a few waves, I thought some of you might be interested. . .
As a guest blogger on John Scalzi's Whatever, bestselling author Brandon Sander wrote an essay titled "Postmodernism in Fantasy." Here's a teaser:
Before postmodern literature can start appearing in a genre (and therefore, before deconstructionists can start pointing out the irony inherent in that postmodern literature) you need to have a body of work with dominant themes and concepts. You need an audience familiar enough with those themes to recognize when they are being molded, changed, and built upon.
Fantasy (and the epic in particular) hit a postmodern stage with remarkable speed. Tolkien was so remarkably dominant, so genre-changing, that reactions to him began immediately. And, since so much of the audience was familiar with his tropes (to the point that they quickly became expected parts of the genre), it was easy to build upon his work and change it. You could also argue that the Campbellian monomyth (awareness of which was injected into the veins of pop culture by George Lucas) was so strong in sf/f that we were well prepared for our postmodern era to hit. Indeed, by the late ’70s, the first major postmodern Tolkienesque fantasy epic had already begun. (In the form of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever.)
You can read the essay here.
Two days later, Jeff VanderMeer wrote his own essay on the subject. Here's an extract:
Brandon Sanderson, god love ‘im, does a somewhat crappy job of defining postmodernism here. For one thing, “postmodernism” isn’t some monolithic thing, so to describe it as he does, even within the more limited context of fantasy, is misleading. For another, some subjects do require a more complex treatment, so when you simplify them down, as Sanderson admits he is, you actually wind up losing the ability to convey any real information in what you are saying. What Sanderson says in his blog entry is largely meaningless.
You can read the full article here.
To a certain extent, the comments left in response to both essay are more interesting than the essays themselves. So you might want to check it out. . .