Like many others here, I suspect, I like to read a wide variety of fantasy, spanning from the time of Tolkien to the best currently in the field. One thing I've noticed is that most of the modern writers lack the distinctive voices of some of the past writers. It is not surprise, because the modern thinking is that the words themselves should not call attention. The story is the thing, and the writer becomes largely "invisible" in the telling of it.
One of the current authors who does not appear to follow this is Steven Erikson, and I have little doubt I could read a few pages of one of the Malazan books I haven't read yet, and without anything to identify the world or characters in a way to tell me it was Erikson, I'd likely identify it.
As should be evident to those who recognize the name "Steerpike," I'm a fan of Peake, who was probably the single most gifted fantasy writer in terms of the actual use of language. The writing itself is part of the wonder of the Gormenghast books. Stepping outside of Fantasy, Nabokov was the same way. The story was still the thing, but the telling of it and the playful use of language that only he could achieve set him apart and cast a work like Lolita as more fully his. It could not have been told in the same way by another writer. On the other hand, most modern fantasy on the shelves could, I feel, have been written by any of a number of skilled writers whose personalities disappear into the telling of the tale (doesn't make them bad or mean these authors are not talented; they are).
So I'm reading Storm Lords, by Tanith Lee, a product of the seventies, when the distinctive author-voice I'm talking about was nearing the end of its life, to give way to the more modern forms. Lee retains that older feel. In two chapters, I've come across a number of short passages I really like. For example:
When a queen is paying one of her servants, Lomandra, to perform a vile deed. She offers a ring, and Lee writes the exchange as follows:
Or this sort part, referring to a captive, pregnant girl Lomandra is watching over (what a way to describe the pregnancy and to characterize Lomandra's view of it):Lomandra stared at the Queen's extended hand and saw what Val Mala offered her - a ring of many precious stones, a beautiful and valuable ring.
Lomandra seemed to hesitate, and then, softly, she drew it off and placed it on her own finger.
'It becomes you," Val Mala murmured, and Lomandra was wedded to her scheming.
Describing a trip to a mountain temple:So Lomandra returned to the Palace of Peace and found only a thin and wasted girl chained to the parasite of creation.
Another description:A silver dawn was replaced by a pitiless lacquering of blue as the towered city fell behind. Birds loomed on broad wings, casting ominous shadows.
There were at least a dozen others, a description of morning light, a time 'long after the star Zastis had paled and fallen from the sky."Night was drowning the sky when he took the chariot and rode out of the River Gate, out of Koramvis, into the barren hills. The mountains, still tipped with with the last light, were a monolithic desolation crowned with blood.
A lot of you might not like these excerpts. Too flowery for some, I suppose. I expect, particularly, younger readers may not (but that's just a guess), having started reading after the more modern trends took hold.
I sometimes wonder if we lose something in the emphasis on the invisible author. You don't see the range of styles and the idiosyncratic writings. You don't have so many of the Lees, or Tolkiens, or Fritz Leibers, Michael Moorcocks, Jack Vances, and the like. The same thing is true in Science Fiction, though to a lesser degree.
What do you guys think...are we better off without it? Or is there some "artistic" element that has been pushed to the wayside? I tend to go with the latter, but I'm interested in how others view it.