The Bankrupt Nihilism of our Fallen Fantasists

Leo Grin from Big Hollywood ain't happy with what the fantasy genre has become, or so it appears. . .

Here's an extract from his piece:

In the case of the fantasy genre, the result is a mockery and defilement of the mythopoeic splendor that true artists like Tolkien and Howard willed into being with their life’s blood. Honor is replaced with debasement, romance with filth, glory with defeat, and hope with despair. Edgy? Nah, just punk kids farting in class and getting some giggles from the other mouth-breathers.

You can read the full article here.

To me, it all sounds like someone caught in the past, refusing to see the genre we love evolve and grow. But that's just me. . .

30 commentaires:

machinery said...

i mostly agree with you.
but i also remember the incest part in the first book of bakker.
i never got why it was even mentioned, as both characters involved didn't appear again in that book, and from what i understand in later books.
this was pure shock treatment.
a gimick.
and there are other such cases.
so while i agree with you, i can see that from the perspective of someone like him, who is most likely not an avid reader of fantasy, it might seem that way.

Jvstin Tomorrow said...

And as Kate Elliott pointed out on twitter, he seems to have a blind spot when it comes to what women are doing in the genre...

Chris K. said...

Long time lurker, first time commenter Pat--but this article just begged for it.

I just can't help how much this guy's opinion just makes my brain turn to mush. I know for a fact that a lot of the authors he mentions LIKES Tolkien, as well as some of the "classics" mentioned (I can't bring myself to call Conan classic...). I just can't help but think the entirety of this article was politically motivated, especially once he starts calling todays fantasy Authors like Stven Erikson "liberals...who don't have anything constructive to add to society".

Also, theres a comment about how the article reminded the commenter about how much she loves the "Sword of Truth" novels, and how Faith of the Fallen gives her some new nugget of truth every time she reads it (2 times a year!!!)--this alone discredits the article entirely :)

Ted Cross said...

I think he overlooks a few things, such as the fact that we tend to reflect upon our times. If our writing today seems depressing and unheroic, well that tells us a lot about what is going on in our lives today. We see so few true heroes anymore that it's little wonder we write more often about desolation.

Anonymous said...

check out what Wert wrote. he absolutely lit this article up

keziah-24 said...

I don't know why I read so many of those comments, an argument where one side is trying to convince another side (with their mind already made up) that something really is very good is never going to get anywhere. People don't just change their minds on whether they like something or not, unless they haven’t actually read the work in question.

There are not enough people who are willing to admit that while they don't personally enjoy something there is skill/artistic value/some other positive quality in it.
Lea Grin does seem a bit arsier about this than necessary, deriding modern fantasy to the point where he is implying those that enjoy it are all shallow idiots with no appreciation of "true art".

Personally I enjoy modern fantasy, but I don't have much to compare it to considering I could never get into Tolkien and haven't delved much into any other older fantasy, though I do love most of Wyndham's novels.

Joseph L. Selby said...

He should have finished the article with "And get off my lawn!"

Cecrow said...

What we're looking at here is nothing more than what ever other genre experiences. Fantasy has finally come of an age to experience this challenge. But the heart of what makes fantasy so loved (the good guys are heroes and they win) will always be there and persevere, while these other varieties crop up alongside. It will be interesting to see the third generation that results, as it takes both styles and melds them. Something like Martin's 'Ice and Fire' may be the starting edge of that.

Blend said...

Oh man, reading that article hurt my brain. How someone believes that today's world will / should pump out the same fantasy that was pumped out by someone dealing with World Wars and the such is beyond me. And then you go down and read some of the comments, and you see that most of the people who tend to agree with him like authors like Terry Goodkind, and hail David Eddings as one of the better authors in the past 20 years, and you can't help but laugh and allow these people to go on believing that they're right, and better than us for it...

Kirshy said...

Just going from the excerpt you posted I would tend to agree with you Pat. Genres change and evolve like anything else in this world. You can hardly say that the work of Joe Abercrombie or George R.R. Martin is a degraded version of Tolkien. They are improvements on an old idea.

Anonymous said...

No, Pat, it isn't just you...

Dan said...

I read this article too, and parts of it I agreed with and others I didn't. I do think that some modern authors have tried too hard to be something other than Tolkenesque. Personally, Joe Abercrombie's writings are not my cup of tea for this reason. But he also quotes some readers of the Malazan series, which, while gritty, is a series that, at least in terms of a large arc, is one of the little guy against insurmountable odds who usually comes out on top. In other words, there are "good guys" that you root for, and the "bad guys" that you don't. In any case, I thought the article was a little too black and white, but the take that moral relativism is alive and well in fantasy was a fair point.

griff edur said...

What a load of dribble..... the comments are just as bad:

'While I don't read anything of sci-fi or fantasy, I share the sadness that the author feels about literary standards taking the same nihilistic fall from grace'

Thats like saying "I really hate driving, its pointless and it doesn't get me anywhere quicker and, and, it guzzles petrol!
Of course, I don't actually drive myself, but I share the frustration of all the drivers in this world"
And oddly enough lots of the commenters were quite happy to point out that they didn't in fact read any sci-fi and fantasy...?

Tolkein's work, as great as it was, was riddled with errors and page fillers, and characters quite often lacked dimension, so what's he (leo) going on about?
And, people like to relate to things, im sure we have all done good things and bad things in equal measures, in LotR's though, your Bad (black clothes) or your Good (white clothes), sorry folks thats life. Oh, wait, is it?

Roland said...

Awesome article! Thanks for the link! Like I said on my blog - total intellectual constipation. Nothing some taking himself less seriously couldn't cure, I'm sure...

http://rolandscodex.blogspot.com/

RiffTrax said...

One of the bankrupt nihilists has posted a response that handles the topic pretty well:
http://www.joeabercrombie.com/2011/02/15/bankrupt-nihilism/

thundasnowz said...

This guy is entitled to his opinion. What rings hollow however is the failure to recognize that JRRT cleaned up his version of our traditional myths injecting his sense of decency. He didn't remain close to the myths of our traditional cultures he created something akin to them. Martin and Erikson and today's bunch are no more provider's of depravity than the Brother's Grimm, the Iclandic Sagas or the Gilgamesh Epic were. Also...should our fiction (fantasy) be required to tread close to myth?

Tristan said...

God, that was a piece of crap. No one owns any genre, no one. It can be anything. Large and long, short and sweet, there are no requirements. And he goes after Erikson, whose writings owe at least a little to the most well known mythic heritage in the West, the Greek. Almost all of the Greek heroes were doomed and quite a few died very nasty deaths.

Howard and Tolkien are beyond fantastic, I read and loved everything they ever did, but they do not own the genre, anyone that thinks the genre should be a certain way, no matter the direction, is a fool of the first order. There is more than one heritage, more than one way to tell a story. I also cringe at the fact that he condemns books that he had not read. That is classic bush league stuff. All in all, your basic uninformed internet rantings.

Anonymous said...

Sounds about right. Creakingquill's comments pretty much refuted the entire thing pretty well.

I don't know who this guy is, but he sounds like a Tolkien/Howard fanboy who got butthurt reading fantasy where the characters finally behave like real human beings. *shrugs*

Zafri Mollon said...

All I cay say is, bring on the "postmodern blasphemies against our mythic heritage."

Jim Lai said...

I disagree. It's one thing to be edgy, grim, and dark, but it has to serve the story. Abercrombie's first trilogy did nothing for me but tear down the tropes of high fantasy for their own sake. I found the story weak, the characters entirely without the ability to make me care about what was happening to them, and the violence just annoying. Contrasted with Morgan's "The Steel Remains," where he used the same tools but had characters whose struggles mattered to the reader, I think that it's still all about how a book presents the characters, setting, and story. Without that, a book is just a slasher flick on paper.

Anonymous said...

Wertzone had a nice write up on this a few days ago

Anonymous said...

"check out what Wert wrote. he absolutely lit this article up."

+1. Wert did a fantastic job of tearing this article apart....

Cheerwell said...

I think gritty fantasy is turning into cliche at this point. The rebellion against "fantasy tropes" is getting stale and boring.

Anonymous said...

Check out Wert, he absolutely posted a sock puppet on someone else's blog to pathetically sent them over to his. Loser...

Cameron said...

As i start reading the article the little voice in the back of my head is sending me warnings. And as these warnings rise up to the front of my mind i stop reading and start looking round the page. Then i see it sitting up near the top clear and all to very ugly "Andrew Breitbart".

amysrevenge said...

This was a very amusing set of stories/posts/diatribes. Thanks for linking this Pat.

Anonymous said...

To put so much effort in saying "I dont like new things and words my mama wont let me say, the whole world is black and white and english people are mean".

Maybe the internet wasn´t such a swell idea after all...

Anonymous said...

lol'd @ Grin. Is he just doing this for attention, or he is really that blinkered?

The Fantasizer said...

I feel that although Leo Grin is too harsh, he may be a bit in the right.
The sense of glory portrayed by Tolkiens work is hardly matched by our modern gritty fantasy(A purely personal opinion). But gritty fantasy has other strengths which the oldies lacked.
It would be wrong to declare only the oldies as pure artists and our present writers as filth, its just a progression, as scott bakker says we need to experiment and create new things for the tools are old.
But Leo Grin is entitled to his own opinion, because judgement on literature I feel is purely subjective.

Adam said...

Phht... Christians love Tolkien because it's basically a speedier, more interesting rehash of the New Testament.

Before you cry bloody murder, consider the plot:

1. Unassuming young man from humble beginnings is laden with an incredibly heavy, some would call "Divine" burden, which will ultimately require the sacrifice of his life. Frodo, Jesus, Zarathustra, whatever.

2. Hero acquires a rag-tag group of friends, who travel the land with him, not always getting along, because they believe in his mission & charge. The Fellowship, the Apostles, the Constellations (wink), whatever.

3. A great evil, whose main power is in TEMPTATION, waits outside the world, biding his time and preparing for the right moment to invade and bring about "the end", the last battle. Evil overlord has an army of ugly animal/human hybrids. Demons, orcs, whatever.

3. Hero is tempted by said evil. Lucifer, Sauron, Ahriman, Set, whatever. What. Ever.

4. After great travels and trials, the hero makes the ultimate sacrifice and for this is rewarded with eternal glory... Heaven, traveling with the elves from the Grey Havens, whatever.

Now, I will grant all you potential naysayers that Frodo is not God or God-like (though the ring DOES grant him God-like powers). so the Frodo/Jesus analogy isn't completely congruent... but, I'm willing to bet that since Tolkien was a classical scholar, he was familiar with the dozens of God-men that came before Jesus, from Hercules, to Osiris, to Mithras, and so on... that he didn't feel the need to write this into his myth.

How funny, though, that an overt pedestrian like Leo Grin would try to compare fantasy that DOESN'T seek to retell the Bible to some non-existent form of "liberal nihilism" which he believes is plaguing the world and destroying the meek and mild sensibilities of White America.

Connection?