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by Bill Ward on September 26, 2011

in Black Gate,On Books,Writing

Recently I wrote an essay about the dangers of too much 'realistic thinking' in fantasy fiction -- When Realism Isn't Real -- Conan the Jazzerciser Petcam For Sale, . In that article I used an example from Poul Anderson's Conan pastiche Conan the Rebel to illustrate my point. Petcam usa, The following post, which originally appeared at Black Gate, is a brief look at Anderson's 'On Thud and Blunder' essay and his realistic approach, Petcam us, and tells the other side of the 'realistic thinking' dichotomy in fantasy fiction. Petcam uk, In particular I look at how fantasy fiction as a whole has moved on from the time of Anderson's original writing, and now features a new set of pit-falls and follies.

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It's been thirty years since Poul Anderson wrote his essay on the need for realism in heroic fantasy, 'On Thud and Blunder,' which you can read in its entirety at the SFWA site, 40mg Petcam, and I think it holds up well even though the genre -- and the perception of it -- has changed greatly. 500mg Petcam, 'On Thud and Blunder' originally appeared in the third installment of Andrew Offutt's classic anthology series Swords Against Darkness; though it was in the excellent, if unimaginatively named, collection of Anderson's called Fantasy that I first encountered it, Petcam craiglist. But already at the time of my reading a whole generation of writers had made a name for themselves by following the dictates of realism and common sense in designing their fantasy worlds. Petcam For Sale, The essay begins with a satire of the genre that features a barbarian cleaving through armor with a fifty-pound sword and riding a horse as if it were a motorbike, among other ridiculous things. Petcam ebay, It's the kind of thing that gave heroic fantasy and sword and sorcery a bad name, and perhaps the sort of thing that meant it would soon be eclipsed by a rising tide of 'high fantasy' in the eighties and nineties. But, 750mg Petcam, in 1978, 10mg Petcam, hf -- as Anderson terms heroic fantasy in an abbreviation that seems to have never caught on -- was an emerging star:
Today's rising popularity of heroic fantasy, or sword-and-sorcery as it is also called, is certainly a Good Thing for those of us who enjoy it, Petcam japan. Probably this is part of a larger movement back toward old-fashioned storytelling, 1000mg Petcam, with colorful backgrounds, events, and characters, 30mg Petcam, tales wherein people do take arms against a sea of troubles and usually win. 200mg Petcam, Such literature is not inherently superior to the introspective or symbolic kinds, but neither is it inherently inferior; Homer and James Joyce were both great artists.

A wonderfully concise statement in defense of the genre, something I could easily see being forwarded today on some blog in support of the much-hoped-for internet revolution in pulpish storytelling, Petcam overseas. However, on today's bookstore shelves, it isn't sword and sorcery but high fantasy books that are all the rage -- a genre possessing a set of conventions that do tend to nicely address the concerns Anderson raises in 'On Thud and Blunder,' but one that itself brings a whole host of new excesses to the table, Petcam For Sale. Perhaps a contemporary writer of Anderson's perspicacity could produce a follow-up article aimed at high fantasy's faults, 100mg Petcam, which I propose be titled 'On Bloat and Blather.'

But that is not to say I dislike high fantasy, far from it. I no more dislike it than Anderson does hf when he lampoons it, 50mg Petcam. Nor is that the focus of this post, Petcam paypal, I merely wanted to suggest how the background of fantasy publishing has shifted dramatically -- so dramatically, in fact, that many of the virtues Anderson enumerates have themselves been used to excess by certain authors in the quest for better fantasy worlds, 20mg Petcam.

Another thing that Anderson decries that has changed for the better, Petcam canada, though perhaps not to the extent that it should, is the development of fantasy worlds based on histories and mythologies outside of the European and Near Eastern tradition. Petcam For Sale, Already in the seventies the shift could be seen, and on today's shelves, too, an increased variety of influences are in evidence. While many veins of culture remained to be tapped, Petcam coupon, there are at least Asian, Petcam australia, African, and Native American inspired fantasies available -- even if the generic brand of fantasy remains overwhelmingly a bland distillation of Medieval Europe.

Though all of that is incidental to the purpose of Anderson's essay, 250mg Petcam, which is a call for greater realism in fantasy -- and not merely realism, Petcam india, but logic and common sense, too. Anderson does a wonderful job of skewering so many of the misconceptions and lazy assumptions of the genre, bringing his historical knowledge to bear on such things as the day-to-day realities of a pre-industrial society, the likely workings of politics and religion, and, of course, some of the practical aspects of fighting and combat. 'On Thud and Blunder' does more to get the reader thinking in these terms, and inspired to go out and do some research, than a great many of today's shallow, cynical books written on the subject of world building and aimed at the would-be fantasy writer.

And, while this essay is targeted at writers, 'On Thud and Blunder' will be appreciated by anyone interested in both fantasy and history, Petcam For Sale. Anderson throws off interesting historical anecdotes like sparks off a grinding wheel, from the pervasiveness of disease and the development of cities, to the social underpinnings of a nation's army and the fragility of a horse's health. It is fascinating stuff -- and for a writer looking for ideas, it's a goldmine.

It has sometimes been said that we are now witnessing the Golden Age of fantasy -- and, with so many series out there varying from the extremely sophisticated to the utterly banal, it's hard to disagree with the statement at least from the standpoint of quantity. It seems to me fantasy has had to change from it's sword and sorcery roots in order to generate the mass appeal that it now holds; it had to get away from many of the flaws Anderson is drawing attention to. In some ways it's a shame that the pendulum has swung so far away from the rollicking good action tale, but it does show signs of swinging back and, perhaps, ushering in a new crop of tales at once sophisticated and viscerally paced. I don't know if this really is the Golden Age, and I can't claim that I like all the changes I see in the genre, but I do believe fantasy has improved with time -- and I fully expect it to get even better.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Lee September 27, 2011 at 5:04 am

Nice post. I need to reread ‘Thud and Blunder’ not read it for awhile. I have to say I really wish Flashing Swords was still active. As an ezine it had started to get some decent momentum championing hf, and gathering together a good pool of writers and readers of the genre. With the eBook revolution that momentum might have snowballed.

High Fantasy’s a weird one, it can be great, but a lot of mediocre stuff is churned out. Then again, some of the things I loved with a passion as a kid, I find weak and formulaic. Especially now that I’m a cynical, doddering, world weary old hack. :D Sometimes I have to remind myself that there’s always a new generation coming through, and what might be a worn out genre trope to me will be an exciting new ‘thing’ for them.

On the plus side of things I think Fantasy as a Genre is in good shape, and there are some very good writers doing stuff that kind of mixes elements of S&S, with High Fantasy, and even literary (with a small l) scope.

Lately I’ve discovered and really enjoyed Steven Erikson, Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, and Patrick Rothfuss., and of course George keeps keeping on with his Song. I think these guys are actually swinging the pendulum back towards the S&S roots and away from High Fantasy. At least in terms of content if not word count. :D

A Shadow Falls September 28, 2011 at 6:42 am

Lee, that list of authors comprise a large part of my “to read” list :)

The latest Song of Ice and Fire instalment should be with me next week, courtesy of Amazon and I’ve been recommended the other authors by various people. Seems like it’s a good time to read fantasy, as there’s lots of good stuff around.

Bill Ward September 28, 2011 at 10:54 am

It is a good time to read fantasy, and like Lee says those guys are injecting some good old s&s attitude back into the fantasy epic.

And I wish Flashing Swords was still around too — they were my first sale, right before they went down (‘The Wyrd of War,’ which eventually went to RBE’s Return of the Sword). But it was a good market with a clear voice and aesthetic back in its original incarnation. Heroic Fantasy Quarterly is these days probably the closest match to old FS.

Fletcher September 28, 2011 at 6:35 pm

Good times to be a S&S fan, good times indeed.

Lee October 10, 2011 at 2:14 pm

@A Shadow Falls: You’re in for a treat if that’s your reading list. Abercrombie is my favourite, but Rothfuss is possibly the best new writer on that list. Anyway they’re all great.

@Bill Ward: Heroic Fantasy Quarterly is great, but seems to be closed to subs at the moment. I suspect once it reopens it won’t be long before it’s closed again. It pays (reasonably) well and, apart from Black Gate, seems to be the only show in town for S&S. Of course, my timing is terrible. I’m always halfway through a story when everyone is open to subs, and only seem to have anything ready when they’re closed to subs.

Bill Ward October 10, 2011 at 4:47 pm

I know the feeling, Lee — just got to have enough stock that you can hit the markets right as they open back up — with so few actually publishing s&s it’s usually the case of just sitting on a rejected story until one of the markets opens again. It can be frustrating.

And HFQ is a great group, they’ve run a story of mine and I got to know one of the editors last year a WFC.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies is another s&s friendly market. But, aside from anthology publishers like RBE, that may actually exhaust the list of s&s friendly markets.

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