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In my desire to amuse myself in the previous post about the ABC's ten favourite books that Australians have, I forgot to mention that there was a children's book list, too. Topping it was Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

Now, I'm not a fan of Tolkien, but I don't really think of it as a kids book. Apparently the Hobbit is, but due to my dislike for Lord of the Rings, I never read it. I'm kind of rational like that. But in truth, I'm not really interested in arguing if it is or it isn't. What I am interested in, however, is that the listing of Lord of the Rings as a kids book ties into my long held opinion that generic, heroic fantasy is aimed at a young adult audience. Those books that follow in the tradition of Tolkien (Eddings, Jordan, Williams... I'm about six years out of who is who in that tradition, so fill in your own name as best held) are actually nothing more than books that carry the sensibilities and simplistic cultural values that you find in young adult novels, though occasionally with less preaching about issues. In addition, you could argue that the style used by the authors of mainstream fantasy is deliberately simple, appealing to those who are still finding their way to navigate complex narrative and sentence structures.

In a very simple way, you could continue to argue that the rise of the new weird (which is not so new and no so weird) is due to the rising age of its audience. A large fantasy reading audience that is now entering their twenties, and looking for something slightly different, takes their first step sideways in a tiny way, and ends up with something like China Mieville's novels, which are still, once things are said and done, a fantasy trilogy. Very few people change their recreational habits by huge degrees--rather, they change in slight movements, almost unaware of it until they look back and realise that they haven't read what they read when they were younger for years.

Anyhow, it's just a thought. Could be nothing but MSU.*




* (M)aking (S)hit (U)p.

Also, someone from Malta came by this blog. Cool.

Comments

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strangedave
Dec. 8th, 2004 05:49 pm (UTC)
Yeah, could be nothing but MSU.

You are correct that much heroic fantasy is aimed at a YA audience. Authors like Brooks and Weis and Hickman very much so. But that doesn't mean that the entirety of mainstream fantasy gets tarred that way. There have always been a few more interesting things on the shelves of the big chains if you look. A current example is Jonathon Strange and Mr Norrell - while a very approachable read, aiming as it does at an audience with a passable knowledge of 19th century writing and politics, its not exactly aiming at YA, and it has to fit in the mainstream category. Nor does it mean that aiming at young adults necessarily means a book has simplistic cultural values - look at Le Guin.

And just because China Miéville writes three novels in roughly the same setting doesn't make it a trilogy, certainly not in the sense used in fantasy marketing. The New Weird such as it is isn't new, true, but largely because its a resurgence of a long tradition of fantasy that doesn't have much to do with Tolkien (except arguably Miéville who to some degree deliberately counterpoints Tolkien).

Don't try to make the current fantasy scene sound even worse than it is!
benpeek
Dec. 8th, 2004 06:12 pm (UTC)
actually, i wasn't looking at it as a bad or a good thing, just one of those things. of course, naturally, there are going to be exceptions to the rules (though i don't know if i'd put jonathan strange and mr norrell in the heroic fantasy category, but admittedly i haven't read it). but i do think that young adult, by being aimed at a young adult audience, does not have as much meat or content as books for adults. but that's just me--there are plenty of people who will agree with you, while i find that the YA books are always lacking for me. just a personal thing, i imagine.

with mieville, though, i was just looking at an idea for his success, and the subsequent birth of this new weird movement which, to me, could be argued that its been fueled by the aging of readers who were hip deep in heroic fantasy. thus, the trilogy simiarity, which admittedly it is more of a series, though i do vaguely remember someone referencing it as that. (or maybe just reading an interview with mieville where he said, 'i plan to write three books,' and i thought, 'trilogy boy.'

but as to making it sound worse... nah. it is what it is, neither good nor bad, but depending on your stand point.
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benpeek
Dec. 9th, 2004 02:26 pm (UTC)
i've never been able to get into reading shakespeare. i think it's because the plays are meant to be performed, not read, and i enjoy them when they are performed.

i still read the weis and hickman stuff, though my reading habits don't make room for any other heroic fantasy stuff. i just get a the nostalgia kick from their books, and the kid in me enjoys them. much like with star wars films.
redlantern2051
Dec. 10th, 2004 04:30 pm (UTC)
Hey dude, when I was in my teenage years, I read a LOT of Weis and Hickman-its entertaining stuff. Lost touch with them during that sequence of novels called "The Death Gate Cycle"-I hit Uni and suddenly they seemed "old-fashioned".

A sci-fi/fantasy writer I love who does sci-fi is Julian May, have u heard if her? "The Saga of the Exiles" & the tie-in "The Galatic Milieu Trilogy" is her best stuff.

I've always quite liked YA lit tho. Just reading thru John Marsden's Tomorrow series right now in fact. At the same time I'm reading a William S Burroughs anthology, which is a nice contrast. :-)
benpeek
Dec. 11th, 2004 03:53 am (UTC)
yeah, i've heard of julian may, but never read her. guess the books didn't appeal (though i'm hard up to remember one, right now.)

i liked the death gate cycle, though i was still in highschool when it was coming out. from what i remember, it worked well, except that the last book was a bit weak--which is a problem they have with all their stuff, imo. i have, i might add, enjoyed weis' stuff by her lonesome, and the mag force seven books she wrote with don perrin. think the magnificent seven as a space opera.
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