Thread: Father of Fantasy
Posted by Spydyrbyte on April 21, 2002:
Most of us consider Tolkien the father of the modern fantasy novel, do we not? That settled, I would like to ask the following, would it be possible to create a new genre? That is, are all the genres that are going to exist already created. One would like to say no to this, but the fact remains that most modern "genres" are not new at all, they are merely new forms of old genres. I like to boil it down like this. There are hundreds of physical and mathematical constants in the world, pi, permeability/permeativity of free space, Planck's constant, the speed of light, etc. BUT! not all of these are completely independent of one another. There are but a few completely independent constants that are not able to be derived from other constants. These we refer to as primary constants as they stand alone. This is related to modern fiction in that most fiction can be boiled down to a combination of a few pre-existing genres, that is, they are not really new genres, but are a combination of old ones. They are not primary genres. So here is the question. Are there any primary genres waiting to be discovered or are we destined to be stuck with combinations of the old ones. AND! Do you think that any of our contemporary artists are capable of such a feat? Just asking
Welcome to the forum again, Spydyrbyte.
rrWhile it may be possible to create a new genre, I really doubt that it will happen as I believe their number is limited, just as the number of plots are limited. However, being a user rather than a creator, this question might be better answered by one of the members of our newly founded Writers Guild.
rr[Edited on 22/4/2002 by Grondmaster]
Why do we have hybrid genres?
Would the primary fantasy genre be one that contains all the elements of classic fantasy (wizards, elves, dwarves, half-lings, humans, goblins, trolls, multiple gods, magic, quests and talismans just to name a few basics) with nothing else?
No romance, no politics, no social commentary, no science-fiction, no crime, no mysteries, no horror, no gothic and no suspense-thrills?
You dont seem to like these hybrids or combinations. To write pure fantasy would be an enjoyable exercise, but not very interesting reading, I think. We have all read (and for the most part enjoyed!) formula fantasy, but doesn't it get a bit predictable? Consider Terry Brooks' Shannara series. Do you think there is a reason their popularity is declining?
Publishers these days are looking for fantasy that takes an original approach, or has content that is new and different from what has gone before. They believe that these types of "hybrid genre" books will sell plenty of copies.
As for a new genre all together? Something that has yet to be used at all? I think a possiblity lies in man's exploration of the universe. If we were to discover new dimensions, with different laws of science and new life forms, social structures and technologies that are bound to these laws, and excluding Man's intrusion into these dimensions, maybe that would enable us to imagine something wholly different and separate from what we are using now? We shall have to wait and see.
Not a chance, there is a finite amount of good ideas out there. While it may be possible to invent a new genre, it would inevitably be crap. For example, the post-punk apocalyptic scribblings of Kathy Acker, a true nutcase. None of it made any sense, but it was truly original, and pretty sick, but not derivative of anything else. Or you could try Bob Dylan's Tarantula, also complete bo***cks and acid-induced raving.
It's just that there's only so much people can come up with that other people can endure, and after 500 years or so of the "great literary tradition" started by Chaucer, and centuries of folk-tales from before then, it's getting a little thin on the ground.
Fantasy is just fantasy, why make it more complicated?
Fantasy = fantasy
Science Fiction = Science Fiction
It's easy, innit?
All I can say is cool; it sounds like a gift, use it well.
I don't begrudge Tolkien his title as the "father of fantasy" - but he didn't really create the genre - he just gave it a quasi "intellectual" seal of approval (being a language professor and all). There were lots of great fantasy writers before him, and plenty who (I feel) surpass him in the field today. It was important that he, an *Oxford* professor - gave Fantasy the credibility it needed to move from obsurity and "cult" following into mainstream. Tolkien made it acceptable to be a fantasy fan if you were over 21 and out of college (even though he found his success in American colleges in the totally loopy 70's). For that I thank him.
Hey Faye, I am glad to see you around here again!
Spyderbyte, when Tolkien was talking about being the "recorder" for events in ME, he was not alluding to some kind of mental disorder, he was refering to a concept of creative writing.
All good (and great) writers claim that their bolckbuster novel "wrote iteself". What they mean is, that once setting and character's are established, for the talented writer like Tolkien, they seem to take on a life of their own, because they know their characters so well, that they can immediatley know how that character will react to any given situation. They may or may not be consious of the fact that they have made highly detailed decisions about their characters, right down to their favourite colour, hobbies and pets they had as children and so on, but when they think about a certain aspect, they realise that they have made that decision and it seems as if the character has a life of their own.
Teachers of creative writing tell us that when we feel that we are no longer making up the story, and that it seems to be writing itself, we are creating something that really works. It does not mean for one minute that we believe that our story is real. It is just a manner of speach or literary concept. I suspect that when Tolkien made the statement about "recording" ME, he thought he was talking to other writers.
Hi Swampfaye! Great to see you again!
You are right about Tolkien, fantasy was not his invention, he just popularised it. Fantasy fiction dates back to c.2000 BC.
I believe Tolkien did invent the term "eucatastrophe" refering to the fantasy story's need for an ending with healing or restoration of something. At least that is something!
Maybe Tolkien is the Uncle of modern fantasy?
Who said Tolkien didn't create fantasy? - Yes he did!
Tolkien was outdated by William Morris' The Wood beyond the World
(Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1894) and The Well at the World's End
(2 vols. London, New York, and Bombay: Longmans, Green, 1896).
I say JRR Tolkien was 'The Father of Modern Fantasy.' There were others who wrote fantasy before him; however, he made reading fantasy respectable, and his writing instilled a desire in the hearts of we his readers for even more. Thus he was responsible for the development of a mass market for the older works of fantasy as well as the newer.
Note: The above to stories are good fantasy, but are not epics, and the latter took me a chapter or three to get my ear tuned to its archaic/stilted language.
Spydyrbyte: In response to your question regarding the whether there can be an infinite number of genres. Fantasy, Science Fiction, Mystery, Western, etc are merely labels and labels are changed or invented thus giving the perception that new genres have been created. Northrop Frye classifys fiction by the hero’s power of action (Anatomy of Criticism: four essays by Northrop Frye; First Essay Historical Criticism: theory of modes). He lists criteria for 5 modes of fiction. I think you will find all genres that we have put labels on will fall under one or a combination of these 5 modes. Therefore even with new dimensions, laws of science, etc., we would still come back to Frye’s theory of 5 modes. There can, however, be an infinite number of labels giving the perception that new genres have been created. That being said, Tolkien is the father of the modern (20th century) fantasy in particular the epic fantasy. As Allyssa has already mention he did invent the term ’eucatastrophe’ which is the element that Tolkien brought to the fantasy genre.
Swampfaye: I don’t agree that there were lots of great fantasy writers before Tolkien. Tolkien wrote his epic fantasy so it could be read and enjoyed by most people, not just academic elitist. I don’t believe any writer since Tolkien has created so complete a world as Middle Earth. Brook’s Shannara, Jordan’s Wheel of Time and McCaffrey’s Pern are great epic tales but none have the heart and soul that Tolkien put into Middle Earth. There are times that I think that Tolkien actually believed Middle Earth existed and that is what makes Lord of the Rings a great work. Sometimes I believe too or least I would like to.
I actually think there are an unlimited number of ideas out there in the world, and so an unlimited number of genres that might come about...the only reason I can see that we all might think the number is finite is because none of us have thought of a different genre yet...as the world changes, so does literature. For example, before all the hype about outer space and all that, I don't think anyone would have guessed that science fiction would be popular...who knows what is still out there to discover?
Actually Tolkien did feel that ME existed. In the compilation of his letters, he stated that he feels that he was not WRITING
LOTR that he was merely RECORDING
it. To him ME was not a place that he created, he did not fashion it in any way. For Tolkien, ME was a place he discovered and just had to let the world know about. Tolkien is quoted many times throughout the letters, that he was just as surprised as his readers at some of the turn of events and appearances of characters and their actions in LOTR. Tolkien didn't always "know" what was going to happen next. Again, I say that he was only RECORDING
(he alludes to ideas from a higher power) the story of ME and had no way of knowing what was going to happen next. So in conclusion, Tolkien did believe that ME existed, not as a place he created in his works but as a place that he was able to show to the people of Earth as would a historian for our own past, interesting concept don't you think?
I always said the guy was nuts didn't I?
And the number of ideas out there could well be infinite, but GOOD ideas? well that's another story...
... Tolkien created fantasy... so there :p
I agree Allyssa!
I didn't mean to imply that Tolkien had a mental disorder or anything of the sort. Tolkien was a highly religious man and even though his works were not written as an allegory, they do have aspects that are reminiscent (sp) of Catholicism. I believe that Tolkien as a philologist did write for other writers many times in his letters and his works; however, many of the letters to which I am referring were written to Tolkiens son when he was away from home. Tolkien was no more crazy than any of us, but I think that deep down he kind of did believe in ME as we all deep down believe in our own little fantasies.
While I believe the imagination has no bounds, I still don’t think you can apply mathematical terminology like ’infinite’ to types of fiction. There are undoubtedly an infinite number of names you can come up with for genres but the basic elements or modes of fiction do not change. Science fiction was not created because of the hype of outerspace but because of the postAuthorID’s curiosity about the future. H G Wells and Jules Verne wrote the futuristic genre before outer space became a fascination. The interesting thing about Verne’s work is that it was science fiction when he wrote it but would now be considered an adventure novel. The difference is that the applied science he used in his works did not exist at that time but the theories have since become a reality. I don’t think we have perfected the time machine yet so Wells’ work can keep the SciFi label.
Hey, who’s to say that Middle Earth did not exist on some dimensional plane? Wish I could go there and meet the elves!
I dont think anyone really believes ME is real. It is just fun to pretenend. I know that it is fiction, even if at times I have pretended not to. I think Tolkien did the same. "If others want to play the game", he probably thought, "I will go along with that! Just to see what happens"
I think we would all like to visit ME and experience all its vistas, but we know that in 99.999999999999% probablility, it will never happen.
It would be nice to think there were dimensions out there that popped into existance for each fantasy novel ever written. Think of the worlds we could explore then!
But for now, we will just have to make do with "make believe"
I know, Allyssa. If anyone truely believed in the existance of ME then you would not be the only person to question the believer's mental state. It is, however fun to escape and pretend, infact, it is good for our mental health.
I always say that nothing is impossible but possibly improbable.
Good point there Rednell! :o
I just tend to call Tolkien the "Grandfather of the Modern Fantasy NOVEL". Is that all right with everyone?
I knowIt is, however fun to escape and pretend, infact, it is good for our mental health.
Is it? That makes me feel so much better! Just like being childish occasionally is good for you. I strongly believe so anyway. Thanks Rednell.
I can only tell that I understand very well from my own experience what does it mean, to feel that I am only "recording" events. It is now a year since I started to write an epic fantasy novel (which in the meantime grew to become a cycle of 7 volumes covering about 1400 pages). And very often I am very much surprised by what I have written, I really feel I am only "recording" something which has a life of its own.
Another recent experience: after having read the story of Allyssa, "Throwback", I went to sleep and just before falling asleep I was thinking in a dreamy way about its characters. And then on the next day (Saturday) I sat before my computer and wrote several pages of the continuation of that story - with dialogues, new sites, new heroes... all complete... and in English which is NOT my first lkanguage!
And then I looked at it totally amazed. How in Earth was all that created??? Some subconscious part of my mind must have worked on that in my sleep I think!
And I agree that writing is beneficial for mental health, it makes me happy, full of benevolence... For me, "subcreation" as Tolkien called it is the most fantastic experience, an ulrtimate pleasure!
Yes Grondy, it IS a gift, something very fragile and capricious... some days are better, others are barren... anyway I enjoy it enormously!
Yes Grondy, it IS a gift, something very fragile and capricious... some days are better, others are barren... anyway I enjoy it enormously!
Totally. Does anyone not
Even I do...
Almost all mythology is based on fact. There is little doubt that there were heroes like Hercules, Odin and Cu Cuhlain and that their myths were based in part on their exploits before writen history. Tolkien's ME was based on mythology - and so was in fact based partly on fact. That is what I believe he was referring to.
As for creating fantasy... how could Tolkien create that? You deny that little girls since the creation of the world have dreamed of prince charming and little boys have dreamed of being heros - those are fantasies too. I will credit Tolkien with creating a fantasy novel, but not fantasy itself.
you are referring to the definition of the word "fantasy". Tolkien has been hailed as the "father of the modern fantasy novel".
I wouldn't dare attempt a detailed explaination on quantum physics, but according to one theory, ME does exist somewhere out in the "multiverse".
Just when you think the well is dry....water.
[Edited on 1/7/2002 by ProgHead777]
hey...anything's possible I suppose...
welcome to the forum!
More importantly, ME exists REALLY in a form of a representation in our brains. Perhaps the most important fact about writing is that if you are a good writer, you may create powerful representations, equally strong and influencing us in much the same way as representations of real people, real places, real history. After all, our conscioussness does not have any contact with the real world, but with its representations in our brain.
And, thus, subcreation IS creation.
I like a lot a verse of JRTT:
Although now long estranged
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not de-throned
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned:
Man, Sub-Creator, the refracted Light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind
I am particularly fond of that line about "living shapes that move from mind to mind". Just think about it, it's exactly what we are doing on this Forum! We are dispersed all over this Planet and yet daily we exchange ideas. Long live the Internet!!!
Welcome to the forum ProgHead777.
Hey there, Proghead. Made it to the forum too now? I like the things you put on the mailing list.
I wondered which of the other members was using that name on the mailing list. Good to see you here too.
Gosh! Thanks for the warm welcome! I knew I loved you people!
P.S. Gnampie! That E-mail's coming soon! I promise!
[Edited on 3/7/2002 by ProgHead777]
Yeah, Val, I kept wondering about that too. In fact, I always replied with "to prog" or sth like that, to be sure nothing could go wrong.
Hi Proghead777, great to see you in the forum. You have added a lot to the discussion mailing list, too.
I lilke what you said Allyssa about writing. I find it to be quite true. I also agree that there was fantasy before Tolkien.
I think that as long as we still have curiosity, we can have an infinate amount of invention, an infinate amount of plots, characters and stories. As to 'genre's (sp?), they are only labels which are thrusted on our stories, so eventually they may run out.
What we run into here is the difference between knowledge and invention. I think that there will always be things we don't know, so therefore there is no stop to knowledge, except in certain areas. As to invention, we will always have this and we can't really wear it out. (this 'we' is a collective 'we', I'm sure as different people we all reach limits of invention at some point)
Sam, you just amaze me. I know you are a 13 year old girl, but you are so intelligent and insightful that you make some of older people feel really stupid leaving a post after you. It has taken me a life time to acquire the knowledge that I do have on subject that you are so conversant in. I am very pleased to have such a sweet and intelligent person in our community. Please don't ever leave us and keep up the wonderful posts.