Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Alchemist, Jul 27, 2010.
Let's put it this way: I know more than you.
But knowledge does not always mean wisdom.
Master, I think. I've been reading for a long time, and I've read and written lots of stuff. Or, if not Master, then Getting There, know what I mean?
LOL. True. Actually, when I was writing this I had you in mind as someone whose responses I always enjoy for their erudition. I see you as at least a Master if not a Sage.
Randy, The Language of the Night is one of my all-time favorite books although it is more about writing and thinking about fantasy than a reference work. But it is a beautiful book. She also has a new collection of essays called Cheek by Jowl which focuses more on children's fantasy, although I haven't dived into it yet.
For a decent coffee table book, Pringle's Fantasy encyclopedia is ok, but it is certainly not a definitive work. You could also just scan through Amazon's Fantasy History & Criticism category, although it lists 945 books, most of which are specific to a movie or Tolkien or Rowling, etc.
It is also worth mentioning that there should be a fantasy version of the Cambridge Companion series out at some point. I read someone mention it but I haven't seen anything official and there isn't a listing on Amazon. But that should be a good one if and when it comes out.
Scholar I guess.
I suppose, having actually taught upper-division level courses on the subject, having fantasy as the root of my dissertation, and having written at least one novel in the field, I must qualify as a 'Sage.' I do wonder about the criteria for the test being breadth, rather than depth of knowledge. But then again, maybe anyone willing to actually question the test itself gets bonus points for their supercilliousness.
I guess I would be a scholar, I was leaning towards journeyman, then I remember all the times i have gone on about this author or that one, or of the basis of where that story started and so on.
I don't think I'd give myself either title. I'm pretty sure that there are quite a few people who have read more fantasy and SF titles than me, especially in SF where I'm behind on the classics. There are a number of college professors who've done extensive studying of the subject. But reading titles doesn't always mean awareness of the field and understanding of the history of that field. I know about a lot more titles than I've read, which makes me a lot more aware of the context and breadth of what's coming out perhaps than a lot of fans. And I watch for publishing and market signs that other people may not be very conscious of, (expect a lot more historical fantasy novels in the next few years.)
Larry Nolen expressed it very well recently in his blog entry:
"Rarely does a month go by on the fora that I frequent that I don't encounter some crude attempt at "placing" a particular story, particularly epic fantasies. I will see earnest people putting forth arguments that basically claim that "dark" and "gritty" fantasies are a relatively new occurrence, arising during the past 10-15 years. Rarely is there any real understanding presented of the fantasy literature produced any earlier than that person's own childhood it seems; I rarely see discussions of pre-1977 fantasies, especially those of the epic variety. For those readers, fantasy (particularly epic fantasies, considering the type of fora that I visit most often) seems to be divorced from any sense of history."
Even if you stick to post 1977 works, it can get kind of frustrating to deal with fans who believe that dark fantasy and urban fantasy were invented in the 1990's, that paranormal romance is a new thing, that there never were any post-industrial alternate world stories until China Mieville came along, etc. You have a lot of fans who talk about George Martin without having any real idea of his considerable writing career before Song of Ice and Fire came out and how that's effected his writing of the series.
But these fans are no less enthusiastic about fantasy and reading than I am. And their opinions about different books are no less interesting to hear about and discuss. It's only when someone starts making erroneous statements about the field or its history to back up their opinions, or starts claiming that fantasy fiction is a certain way or should be a certain way because someone told them that was the case, etc., that I start frothing at the mouth.
But that's reality. Most people keep their attention on a very narrow range and don't notice anything else until it gets really big and loud and right there in their face, at which point they tend to see it as a "new" thing. We've got too much data coming in and category fantasy now has a lot of history and more titles all the time. I can't keep up with it all and I don't expect anyone else to do so. (Though it wouldn't hurt people to check out certain claims before making them.) I don't think we really need a hierarchy of fandom.
But I do feel for the older authors, as I've said before, who have to put up with fans basically saying that what they did in the past never existed and how fantasy authors are shiny and special now and the older ones were all mostly crap in the past. (Which is particularly funny since the wholesale market allowed mid-list authors in the past to sell copies in numbers that are only racked up by best-sellers today, with far less publicity effort.) I imagine it gets a bit wearying to them to deal with fans who consider themselves Masters and yet have no clue who these seminal authors are. (Not that they don't still have large followings.)
But that people still do want to try, that it's important to them, that they talk about the books on the Internet and go to cons and support SFF films, graphic novels, etc., I think that's all great because it's what I love too. And I want more people to try stuff out; they do not have to be as obsessive as I am about it. They just have to put up with me occasionally frothing at the mouth.
I must surely be a novice. I have no idea who John Clute is. If he is responsible for perpetuating what is apparently the current conventional view of fantasy, he can probably be safely dismissed as having any interest for me. I can claim though to have read fantasy no one here seems to bring up. Exotica like the Berenstein Bears, Curious George, Babar, and a choose your own adventure book even though it frightened me terribly how often the character met some grisly fate. I've also probably read more stories involving magic dumplings and magic mangoes than most (Dahl's James and the Giant Peach original? Hah!) and I wouldn't be surprised if I'm familiar with at least one fantasy classic that would leave a sage stumped. That said, what one is familiar with does not mean much if one is unable to interpret it, so it doesn't really matter how much one has read if one cannot say something new about it.
Of the three, I think Barbar is the most interesting and certainly the most political.
I can't agree. I make my upper-division theory students perform a post-colonial reading of Curious George, and it generally rocks their world.
KatG, you good eye never fails to impress. After Babar, it was hard to get worked up over puppies and kittens—elephants just seemed inestimably more fascinating.
Now that I think about it, Babar may have helped to inspire Dumbo.
You know, I thought we were talking authors. I had to read your post about elephants to get it. Oh, Babar.
It's interesting how your brain can compartmentalise information, isn't it? I know Babar well (read the books as a child), but wasn't a fan. I've been more partial to the Moomins, myself.
I never heard of Curious George until I hit the internet, and this is the first I heard of the Berenstain Bears (I googled). I guess, I'm betraying my European vantage point, here.
Me, I'm a dabbler. I've read widely, but not deeply. I do have a scholarly background with the theory and history, though. (And I'm probably one of the few people here who buys Bond's hypothesis that Sir Walter Scott is more fundamental to modern fantasy than Tolkien. Tolkien [his influence at any rate] came way too late.)
Finally, to even take an interest in Clute you have to reach scholar status. Unless you're talking about his fiction, which nobody in the thread here was talking about, I think. And while I have no idea what the "current conventional view of fantasy" is, Clute is likely not responsible for it. He's a very inclusive reader (I think, I remember his SF encyclopedia including stuff like Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game).
I think I'll likely be a Journeyman for life. For me, any kind of deeper immersion would likely take some of my enjoyment out of reading fantasy.
I'm with you there. I'm Journeyman and only leaning toward Scholar because I contribute to blogs, but I wouldn't really count my rambling as anything remotely scholarly.
Oh well, there is that. But there are post-colonial aspects to Barbar too. And then, of course, there is Orlando the Marmalade Cat, especially A Trip Abroad.
KatG, I missed your recent "froth" until now . I certainly empathize, although hope I didn't give the impression that I am looking to create a "hierarchy of fandom." I was simply curious about the amount of knowledge of the field the participants of this forum have. Like you I try to have a broad understanding of the field, a historical context and idea of the plethora of authors, although the breadth of my reading is relatively limited. These days--with family, busy job, my own writing--I only have time to read half a dozen or so novels a year. I wish I could read more and am trying to up that to about one a month or more, but it is hard. Right now I'm trying to go back through the couple hundred un-read books I own and read the classics that I never got around to (I'm currently reading The Dispossessed).
Babar? Curious George? Nah. I'm more partial to Frog and Toad--that's some good stuff, and wise too.
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