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The One Ring Forums: Off Topic: Off Topic:
The George R. R. Martin/Modern Fantacist Article

JRandomRohirrim01
The Shire


Jun 22 2013, 9:52pm

Post #1 of 18 (234 views)
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The George R. R. Martin/Modern Fantacist Article Can't Post

Demosthenes wrote a fine article on Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" and whether it was appropriate to call Martin a "Modern Tolkien."

I think the answer is "maybe."

It's true the content and style of the Martin series is quite different from the content and style of The Lord of the Rings. But, one strong similarity is the impact these series have on their fans. The Brotherhood without Banners groups are every bit as fond of their series as we are about LOTR. So there's something about the characters, world and sweep of these series that really draw people into them in ways other fantasy series do not.


Ardamírë
Valinor


Jun 23 2013, 12:06am

Post #2 of 18 (168 views)
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"Next Tolkien" [In reply to] Can't Post

I can't agree. I haven't read Martin's work, but from reading the article, Demosthenes's point seemed to me to be that Tolkien changed the course of the fantasy genre and that Martin has not. It seems to me that the "next Tolkien" will be the writer who overhauls the genre once again.

"...not till now have I understood the tale of your people and their fall.
As wicked fools I scorned them, but I pity them at last.
For if this is indeed, as the Eldar say, the gift of the One to Men,
it is bitter to receive." -Arwen Undómiel




Aragorn the Elfstone
Grey Havens


Jun 23 2013, 3:31am

Post #3 of 18 (155 views)
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I find the article a bit insulting to both authors. [In reply to] Can't Post

Why is it that we must always get defensive about our favorite authors/directors/etc.? The reviewer's quote about Martin being "the American Tolkien" is exactly the type of thing critics put in their reviews because they want to get quoted. But the very notion is terribly off the mark - because Martin's work has many virtues that has nothing whatsoever to do with "how close he emulates Tolkien", or some such thing. Likewise, Tolkien changed EVERYTHING with his works, and to think anyone will compare to him is foolish. The next person to achieve what Tolkien did is also unlikely to be referred to as "the next Tolkien", because they will known by their own name and for their own accomplishment.

Martin is not Tolkien. That is neither an insult or a compliment. He is George R.R. Martin - the creator and author of a world and story that is ingenious in its own right. There is no need to "defend" Professor Tolkien and his legacy. The fact that people the world over are still reading his works bears that out.

"All men dream; but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds awake to find that it was vanity; But the dreamers of day are dangerous men. That they may act their dreams with open eyes to make it possible."
- T.E. Lawrence


(This post was edited by Aragorn the Elfstone on Jun 23 2013, 3:32am)


Elutherian
Rohan


Jun 23 2013, 4:01am

Post #4 of 18 (135 views)
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They are both writers of the Fantasy Genre [In reply to] Can't Post

....and while Martin pays homage to certain aspects of Tolkien's world (there is a hall in the North, in the books, called "The Oakenshield Hall"), there isn't much comparison otherwise.

They are both brilliant writers who tell amazing stories in their own way.

The Grey Pilgrim, they once called me. Three hundred lives of men I walked this earth, and now I have no time...


JRandomRohirrim01
The Shire


Jun 23 2013, 6:37am

Post #5 of 18 (133 views)
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It's Too Soon to Tell if Martin's Books Will Change Fantasy [In reply to] Can't Post

Tolkien's books didn't really become entrenched in the culture for 10-15 years after their publication. And it really wasn't until the late '70s or early '80s that various writers started to publish large fantasy trilogies.

The first Song of Ice and Fire book was published in the late 90s. These types of series take a long time to write, and I'm not sure how many long series publishers are publishing these days. Also, we seem to have a lot more paranomal books in place of epic/historical fantasies.


Misto
Lorien

Jun 23 2013, 1:27pm

Post #6 of 18 (119 views)
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Really enjoyed the article. [In reply to] Can't Post

For starters, I ought to say that I've only taken to Martin quite recently and have not yet gotten past the first volume.

Anyway, my two cents: if I try to compare 800-page Game of Thrones with 1000soemthing green edition LotR I don't see much likeness.
For my part, Game of Thrones left me hanging in between "why am I reading this?" while I had the book in hand and "why am I not reading this?" when doing something else. At least for about the first 200-300 pages. Whereas LotR was a "Wait, that can't have been 300 pages? I've only just begun!" sort of reading experience. This isn't meant to say I didn't enjoy Martin's book, but I guess Dem really has a point, when he highlights Tolkiens depth. LotR is more like the summary of a lifetime's worth of stories and legends finally put to paper, whereas Game of Thrones reads like a well though-out book that has taken its time, but not a lifetime.


JRandomRohirrim01
The Shire


Jun 23 2013, 2:08pm

Post #7 of 18 (118 views)
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Martin Series Is Now Longer than LOTR [In reply to] Can't Post

It's close to double the length.

I found the first three books of the Martin series fascinating and books 4 & 5 less so. I'm somewhat concerned about the books he's working on and I think they need better editing.

I only rarely felt that LOTR needed any editing.


Escapist
Gondor


Jun 23 2013, 3:05pm

Post #8 of 18 (114 views)
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The concept of good and evil [In reply to] Can't Post

First, I would like to acknowledge a great effort to so eloquently put into words the perception that I have gleaned from the vibrant buzz surrounding GRR Martin's writing"

  • Epic in span with an ensemble cast. World-spanning scope and a large cast who get equal time? Check.
  • Driven by politics and power. As Cersei Lannister says bluntly to Ned Stark, in Westeros when you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.
  • Essentially anti-heroic. Westeros might have knights, but is anyone really a white knight? Brienne? Daenerys? Arya? Jon Snow? Brienne is probably the closest, the others all have made compromises of one sort or another to survive.
  • Hobbesian in nature. It’s a dog-eat-dog universe. Showing mercy to an enemy generally rebounds badly.
  • Low in magic. Sorcery? Fireballs? Not much of that here at all, particularly in the early novels.

It's nice to be able to start from this baseline. Often I find myself just stuck on points 2 and 4 with struggling efforts to define and defend my perceptions coinciding with these observations having never actually read the books (as these are my reasons for a lack of interest). However, it is because of 2 and 4 that I have chosen not to venture into GRR Martin's stories, even in spite of point 1 (which can be found in many examples of good writing by the way). Finally, point 5 isn't a "deal-breaker" for me, but, I am attracted to a great selection of books that have quite a bit of imagination - not necessarily fireballs - but maybe fireballs and certainly a sense of "otherness" that stretches reality as I perceive it in some way whether that be taking on the perspective of an animal that talks in some way or speculating on the mysterious the way that X-Files approaches it.

In some ways, point 3 (especially when combined with other factors like either points2 and 4 combined or maybe something else that has iconically been associated with "villains" or "the dark side") amounts to a what I perceive in a sort of "relishing of being evil". Those might not be the best words for it - I like the words in this article quite a bit better. But if doing those things which are considered "immoral", "cruel", "unapologetically self-serving", and "unrestrainedly destructive towards others for personal gain" is defended and even "basked in" then that, to me, is a sort of "relishing of being evil". There is a certain sense where GRR Martin is challenging readers to accept that dark side of life. I think there is something a little bit healthy about doing that (to a point) - but I have my own preferences to it. I prefer a satyrical and humorous approach to help me negotiate / accept / enjoy that side of life as best as I can like what is found in "Good Omens" [Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett]. Their approach is highly humorous and imaginative (big plusses for me - not necessarily for everyone else - but it goes a long way to help me take that side of life). I'd say it is also anti-heroic and the characters challenge taboos and present the macabre and shadowy sides of life, just with a very different flavor that I happen to enjoy quite a bit more (satire and imagination) than a hobessian approach that dwells on the politics of power and accepts as premises things like "might makes right", "win or die", etc. Good Omens also features point 1in spades, but it does so with a nice imaginative touch that allows a person to "step back and take a different perspective" as opposed to a more "gritty realism" that to me comes too close to real life experiences for me to be able to approach it in any way other than what I already find as a reflex. I'd say both approaches share a kind of honesty that doesn't try to hide that darker side of life - it's just that one is laughing at itself a little (and I find myself readily joining in) where the other is demanding my fealty (which I do not give).


Annael
Half-elven


Jun 23 2013, 5:19pm

Post #9 of 18 (119 views)
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I'm quite sure [In reply to] Can't Post

that there will be plenty who try to imitate Martin, just as there were/are plenty who try to imitate Tolkien (Terry Brooks has made a career out of that).

But sooner or later, someone will come along who gives us a new take on the genre altogether, just as Martin did. I think it's a bit presumptive - and limiting - to predict where the genre will go.

In fact, one could argue that Martin's style is closer to magical realism than fantasy; occasionally something happens that can't be logically explained, like dragons, but for the most part people are just people. The "fantasy" comes in because he's imagining a different medieval world than the one of our history, but otherwise, how different is he from Bernard Cornwall?

The way we imagine our lives is the way we are going to go on living our lives.

- James Hillman, Healing Fiction

* * * * * * * * * *

NARF and member of Deplorable Cultus since 1967


bborchar
Rohan


Jun 24 2013, 2:36am

Post #10 of 18 (96 views)
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I didn't read the article... [In reply to] Can't Post

...but I would say that many people who have read the books find them to be a more grown-up version of fantasy...and really I believe they are so different that you can't compare. As my husband says "He's not an evolution of Tolkien, he's a revolution", and I agree completely.


「さようなら、ミスター·ホームズ」〜アイリーン·アダラーのメール

「ベルグレービアの醜聞」


bborchar
Rohan


Jun 24 2013, 2:44am

Post #11 of 18 (93 views)
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The last two books, maybe... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
It's close to double the length.

I found the first three books of the Martin series fascinating and books 4 & 5 less so. I'm somewhat concerned about the books he's working on and I think they need better editing.

I only rarely felt that LOTR needed any editing.


But I definitely think that Tolkien could have cut some stuff out, too. At least half of the songs and most of Tom Bombadil.


「さようなら、ミスター·ホームズ」〜アイリーン·アダラーのメール

「ベルグレービアの醜聞」

(This post was edited by bborchar on Jun 24 2013, 2:45am)


Salmacis81
Grey Havens


Jun 24 2013, 9:17pm

Post #12 of 18 (83 views)
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You can't take his opinion as law though... [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
Demosthenes's point seemed to me to be that Tolkien changed the course of the fantasy genre and that Martin has not. It seems to me that the "next Tolkien" will be the writer who overhauls the genre once again.


I'm not an expert on what it takes to overhaul the genre, but I'd say a good criterion would be the amount of imitators you spawn. Tolkien obviously wins in this regard, but Martin's books are not very old, and his story is not even finished yet. Like someone else said, it's a bit early to tell whether George RR Martin will have as major an impact on the genre as that of Tolkien's. His books are certainly original and popular enough to be able to reach that point, but only time will tell if he gets there.


Misto
Lorien

Jun 26 2013, 9:42pm

Post #13 of 18 (65 views)
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Define "grown up" [In reply to] Can't Post

If "grown up" means explicit sexual content and explicit swearing, then yes, I will agree. Personally, I can't exactly say either is necessary or beneficial to the book. Those where the parts where I thought "Why? I can imagine this part of the story myself alright". Maybe that makes me old-fashioned, maybe that even makes me a prude, but I don't quite see the point of it.

Any other definition of grown up I kind of fail to see how that would be the case. Maybe you could point it out?


bborchar
Rohan


Jun 26 2013, 9:59pm

Post #14 of 18 (65 views)
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I'm not passing any judgement on anything... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
If "grown up" means explicit sexual content and explicit swearing, then yes, I will agree. Personally, I can't exactly say either is necessary or beneficial to the book. Those where the parts where I thought "Why? I can imagine this part of the story myself alright". Maybe that makes me old-fashioned, maybe that even makes me a prude, but I don't quite see the point of it.

Any other definition of grown up I kind of fail to see how that would be the case. Maybe you could point it out?


Other than in my own point of view. It's not a reflection on anyone's personal values. If you don't like the explicit violence, language, and sex, that's fine. I know others who feel the same way. I never called them prudes, nor would I. It's simply a matter of taste.

But my definition of "grown up" in this case is that there are real world consequences for the characters, and often tragic ones, who play and lose in the game of politics. It's not something that many stories in the fantasy genre touch on at all, let alone in such brutal ways. None of Tolkien's works, too. They play with broader ideas of racial inequality and evil vs. good. I sort of think of his works like this:

The Hobbit: Children's fairy tale
LotR: Teenager's fairytale and first foray into high fantasy
TS: A Biblical analogy
Other works: haven't read, won't judge

Game of Thrones is none of that. Really, it's more of a medieval tale of conquest with fantasy elements. There are no heroes, and few purely evil people. Everyone is simply trying to claw their way to the top, and many will fail.

It's not a story I would read to my child, nor is it a show that I would even want my teenage nephews to watch. That's why it's played on HBO, and why it has such graphic warnings. Nothing in Tolkien even comes close to seeing a beloved character's body paraded around with his pet wolf's head sewn onto the decapitated body. It's shocking, but it teaches you that nothing and nobody is ever truly sacred. In short, it's the themes of GoT that make it more grown-up than LotR.


「さようなら、ミスター·ホームズ」〜アイリーン·アダラーのメール

「ベルグレービアの醜聞」

(This post was edited by bborchar on Jun 26 2013, 10:03pm)


Misto
Lorien

Jun 26 2013, 10:45pm

Post #15 of 18 (77 views)
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Thank you for clarifying. [In reply to] Can't Post

I must admit I found the language rather strange, considering that this is basically a medieval story. You come across the "Bl***y (f-word) something" now and again. In my mind that just doesn't go with the time setting. At all. Of course there are not terribly many text passages, where said language is applied, still I mentally stumbled every time.

However, I agree that it has a refreshing lack of greater concepts other than either "I want to rule" or "I want anybody but that idiot on the throne". I'm not necessarily sure that's a benefit. A different concept and a good one at that, absolutely. But is it better? Or "more grown-up"? I'm not quite sure I see it that way. (*)

That aside, the lack of one universally evil character is indeed perhaps more modern, more akin to the real world. The only evil in existence is not some outside force but it's as much evil as will surface in any random person once he's provided with enough power to make his plans potentially viable. In that perspective, I believe Martin's work is indeed more grown-up.

(*) Actually, I had started to type some lengthy discussion that would have gone in a philosophical direction, but I realised I'm too tired at nearly 1 am to make much sense. I'll save it for another time ;-)


bborchar
Rohan


Jun 27 2013, 1:31am

Post #16 of 18 (56 views)
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It's grown-up because the material is not for children... [In reply to] Can't Post

I really don't know how to define it more than that. The same way that some anime is grown up- it's not made for children, despite it being a cartoon. Does everyone like it? No- but that still doesn't make it for children. And just because it's fantasy doesn't mean that it can't be grown up.

You don't have to like it, and I'm not saying that grown-ups can only read and watch grown-up things...I have interests all over the place. But GoT is a mature story, love or hate it.


「さようなら、ミスター·ホームズ」〜アイリーン·アダラーのメール

「ベルグレービアの醜聞」


Misto
Lorien

Jun 29 2013, 8:55pm

Post #17 of 18 (45 views)
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I'm afraid now you lost me for good. [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm confused. Grown up = not made for children. Got that.
But then how can GoT be "more grown-up" than LotR? That's not exactly a story I would read (most) children at bedtime either. Or anyway it's certainly not a story that speaks more to children than it speaks to adults. Which, of course, were an entirely different matter if we talked about the Hobbit. But we don't.


bborchar
Rohan


Jun 29 2013, 9:10pm

Post #18 of 18 (45 views)
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Because it is... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
I'm confused. Grown up = not made for children. Got that.
But then how can GoT be "more grown-up" than LotR? That's not exactly a story I would read (most) children at bedtime either. Or anyway it's certainly not a story that speaks more to children than it speaks to adults. Which, of course, were an entirely different matter if we talked about the Hobbit. But we don't.


Because LotR isn't scary at all? Sorry, I read it when I was 11, and I don't recall it ever scaring me whatsoever, or having anything in it that wasn't appropriate for children. It's about as clean as can be. Not so with GoT. That's really all there is to it.

"Beware of panthers." ~ The Doctor

 
 

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