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Curious if you... posted 10 February 2004 in Author Q & ACurious if you... by Mithfânion, Didact

I agree entirely, though I took quite a thrashing for suggesting as much on a Talkback forum some time ago - by none other than M. John Harrison, no less!

An M. John Harrison btw, whose dreary Urban Fantasy/New Weird books I find utterly uncompelling.

I'll just say that I am not at all surprised you would find yourself at odds with him. He is one of the prime writers of the New Weird style and that category dismisses quite a lot which you yourself seem to like. These are precisely the people who are entertaining themselves with being different, changing for the sake of change. It is no surprise to me that writers such as Harrison and China Mieville are dismissive of Tolkienesque Fantasy, it is precisely what they are trying to get away from. Ever heard Mieville go off on Tolkien? He really can't stand him, there are two or three "essays" of his on Tolkien, here's a snippet I dug up through Google:

"Tolkien is the wen on the arse of fantasy literature. His oeuvre is massive and contagious - you can't ignore it, so don't even try. The best you can do is consciously try to lance the boil. And there's a lot to dislike - his cod-Wagnerian pomposity, his boys-own-adventure glorying in war, his small-minded and reactionary love for hierarchical status-quos, his belief in absolute morality that blurs moral and political complexity. Tolkien's clichés - elves 'n' dwarfs 'n' magic rings - have spread like viruses. He wrote that the function of fantasy was 'consolation', thereby making it an article of policy that a fantasy writer should mollycoddle the reader..............Tolkien’s worldview was resolutely rural, petty bourgeois, conservative, anti-modernist, misanthropically Christian and anti-intellectual."

Of course, his political views are diametrically opposed to Tolkiens, which has everything to do with it.

Personally I really dislike the Urban Fantasy stuff they write. Why? Because it endeavours to be grotesque, to be bizarre, and everything is so horribly blurry, instead of inspiring a sense of true etherealness. The world feels dreamish, sometimes even having different blurry planes about which nothing at all is explained, perhaps even entered by whimsical magic mirrors and portals. It's translucent. I like decent worldbuilding with proper detailed and vast history, a world which takes me back to a different time. Also magic never works for me in Urban Fantasy. And I have yet to read a more overwritten book than Mervyn Peake's ghastly Gormenghast.

Anyway, I think that it is correct to say that Fantasy has arrived at something of a crossroads, perhaps it's even passed and made it's decision. There are those who will continue writing Tolkien clones, there are those who will try to re-invent Epich High Fantasy within the established context and there are those who will veer off into entirely different directions. view post


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