Monday, November 29, 2004

Mythology in Your Mind


My apologies now if this post comes across as confused. I'm going into this while writing several things at the same time so my brain neurons are misfiring like crazy.

Anyway, while someone was asking a question about the current state of fantasy in the comment section, I got an inkling of a shadow of a glimmer of an idea of a question that I thought of exploring.

To wit...

Agnes: Why is all sci-fi populated with the biz of elfets, demons, middle earth and unpronouncable names?
JP: Not sf but fantasy.Most fantasy is filled with elfs and dragons coz the writers are too lazy to do anything but crib Tolkien. My opinion, anyway.
Chris: Agnes, it usually means that the author doesn't have much imagination, which is a big handicap for a genre dealing with fantasy and speculation. Such things are a crutch, like what sci fi writers rely on when they base their stories off the old "Cowboys and Indians in Space" template.

Well, I certainly agree with JP's and Chris's assessment of the prevalence of 'elflets' in fantasy literature.

However, I presume they were mostly referring to the works written by American writers that were being pushed by their publishers in the wake of Terry Brooks' success in re-creating the world of elves, dragons and dwarfs.

Of course, despite the perception it was Brook's Shannara books that opened this can of worms in 1977, the fantasy genre at that time was in full swing.

In Britain, some major shake-up in science-fiction was being done led by Michael Moorcock, Brian Aldiss and JG Ballard and the rest of the New Wave. In the US, there was Robert E. Howard with his Conan saga and Fritz Leiber with the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser series doing great shakes.

Now, I've always wondered why American writers would write about elves and dwarves and dragons. After all, these are primarily mythology of the British isles, right?

Of course, one could say that it was publishers who pushed for it after Brooks' success in mining Tolkien's idea. On the other hand, Brooks himself said he got the idea about Shannara from adventure writers like Alexander Dumas and Robert Stevensons

So, I wonder: why is the British Isles mythology popular in America? Is it because, like Neil Gaiman conceptualizes in American Gods, everything is transplanted? (The closest thing I can think of in terms of American mythology is the Wild West. Look at Stephen King's Dark Tower books.)

Curious cats wanna know...

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