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G.R.R.M the American Tolkien?

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by hots_towel, Jan 8, 2014.

  1. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    As I pointed out earlier in the thread, it's really just a marketing gimmick. Most writers of epic fantasy over the decades have been compared to Tolkien. Because Tolkien was always the biggest seller ever in epic fantasy. It's just saying, "you know Tolkien, how awesome he is? Yeah, this guy is totally just like him. You should buy this book." If I had a nickel for every time I've seen a fantasy book that had some variation of "this writer is the next Tolkien!" written somewhere on the cover I could probably buy my whole family a nice dinner out.

    Martin just happens to be THE big thing in epic fantasy right now, so of course he's being compared to Tolkien. Comparing one author to another is fine. It's just a frame of reference for introducing an author to a reader who is familiar with a different author. Though, yes, the whole idea of any one author being "the next" whatever is silly. Like I said, it's just a marketing gimmick.
     
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  2. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    I agree. It's like in horror saying "the next Stephen King" or in SF saying "the next Frank Herbert" or something. Calling him the American Tolkien just kind of means to me that he's the biggest fantasy writer to ever come out of the US. I can't really disagree in that regard. The two are obviously very different stylistically.
     
  3. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    It's all good, bro
     
  4. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    Tolkien stood the test of time and is not really the first fantasy author, in the sense that old epic poems like Beowulf, Greek and Norse myths, etc. are fantasy. But Tolkien started the fantasy where elves hate dwarves, orcs hate everybody, wizards aren't nerds, etc.

    GRRM is not the first grimdark author, nor is ASoIaF his first work of that style. But it's the work that's mainstreaming fantasy's dark side. He's a trendsetter who, like JRRT, introduced an incredibly large number of readers to a fantasy sub-genre and style of writing: multiple POVs with no apparent MC.

    Whether or not his work stands the test of time would determine whether he deserves such a title. (If so, you'll know in a few decades when the next creator of new-&-different-&-popular fantasy is crowned "The New GRRM.")



    STEALTH EDIT - One major difference between the two: JRRT did all that without HBO.
     
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  5. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    No, Tolkien had 3 blockbuster movies plus 40 years of D&D to help cement his reputation.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2015
  6. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I think it was well established before both of those. Certainly before the movies, and I'd read Tolkien before I knew what D&D was (which I started playing when 1e AD&D was released). D&D helped solidify certain tropes.
     
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  7. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    When I read The Hobbit, I was 13. All there was back then was a cartoon, which didn't bust any blocks. I didn't play D&D, but Gauntlet was out that year. I played that.

    On rollerskates.
     
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  8. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

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    And?
    I read ASoIaF before the HBO show started airing.
    And even if you didn't play D&D, that doesn't mean it hasn't had a big role in popularizing Tolkien's cliches. Likewise, just because you read The Hobbit first, that doesn't mean the movies arent a big contributor to Tolkien's current popularity.

    What I was trying to get at is that it's ridiculous to treat Tolkien as "the standard by which all fantasy writers are measured against and fail" and then start measuring writers against him. I mean, it's not like Tolkien (or anyone else) is objectively the best or most important fantasy writer.

    Full disclosure: I'm biased against Tolkien so I'm kind of trying to do a devil's advocate thing.
     
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  9. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I think that what LS and Steerpike are trying to say is that Tolkien would still be the gold standard of fantasy even without the movies and D&D. I'm inclined to agree.

    Yes. It is, but that doesn't mean it won't happen anyway. It's one of those things where "it's just the way it is" is the simplest explanation. People like to compare things. It gives them a better understanding of something without having to actually get to know said something.
     
  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    In fact he was already the gold standard. The Lord of the Rings was published in the 50s, and by the 60s had become very popular in the U.S. Clubs formed around the work. Not sure how it did in the UK initially. You can find other fantasy novels published in the 1960s and 1970s, before D&D came on the scene, excerpting reviews on the cover or inside the jacket comparing the author to Tolkien. The status of LOTR in the fantasy genre isn't new by any stretch of the imagination. The books have pretty much stayed popular for the last 50+ years in the U.S.
     
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  11. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    It may or may not be ridiculous. That's immaterial. It is what publishers do to market new fantasy writers. That is indisputable. They've been doing it since at least 1977, when The Silmarillion was published and publishers scrambled to find other "similar" types of fantasy books to publish and market to Tolkien's huge fanbase. That's why The Sword of Shannara, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant and others were published that year. That's why the big epic fantasy boom happened, because publishers were trying to cater to Tolkien fans who desperately wanted more of the same general flavor of epic fantasy.

    Tolkien has decidedly been thee gold standard of epic fantasy since the 60s. No one else had even come close. The movies succeeded not on their own merits, but because of the huge and ravenous Tolkien fanbase who hyped them to infinity and beyond and dragged all their non-Tolkien loving friends along. I suspect HBO's GoT is successful because of its own merits, not because of Martin's fanbase. Those who have read the books seem to be a minority of its viewers. I also suspect that it will be the more well loved and well remembered version in a couple of decades. Since Martin's series isn't even finished, it's foolish to compare its success and longevity to a trilogy that has long since been completed and passed from one generation to the next and the next. LOTR has already proven its staying power. ASoIaF hasn't even been tested yet, because it isn't over. It's the ending that determines whether the book will get the kind of word of mouth treatment to last generations.
     
  12. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

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    @Mytho,

    Totally agree (even though I know we have opposing opinions on GRRM's creation). It's always silly to compare a time-tested classic to what's currently popular, and it's even sillier when publishers market an author using such a comparison.

    There's a possibility that only the HBO version of Game of Thrones will actually have an ending. (Naive Hope Slash Conspiracy Theory: ...unless GRRM is already finished ASoIaF, and the release of books 6 & 7 will be timed with the 6th & 7th seasons of the show as a villainous marketing ploy that's being kept under wraps by a mustache-twirling publisher.)

    My copies of the ASoIaF book have the HBO logo on them. I don't think there will be a book 6 or book 7 that lacks this logo. It's a reminder that GRRM's work was big enough for HBO to make a show of it, but thanks to HBO, his work grew from a tree-stomping giant to one who has to duck when walking under the moon.



    LotR films grew JRRT's giant so its head is marginally closer to the sun, doubtfully enough to feel the difference. What got a lot bigger as a result of the films was Peter Jackson's name. Since the Hobbit films sucked (from what I'm told), my guess is that the book will remain a classic but the films will be forgotten when my girls are in their 20s. They can sit through 3 hours of The Sound of Music (in two sittings). But I don't ever see them reaching a point in life where they'll watch 3 hours of Super Mario Legolas, or two trilogies that make up more hours than there are in a day.

    Even the LotR trilogy, which I liked, will seem dated due to current films relying so much on CGI effects. I can't get my wife to watch it because of the length.

    (On a semi-relaed note, last June I showed my high school students Aliens on the last day of school after watching Prometheus the day before. They agreed Aliens is awesome, and thought they liked both films the 80s film was the far better one. My only regret is that I have the director's cut. It's better off without the extra 15 minutes.)
     
  13. Fyle

    Fyle Inkling

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    You cant compare until Martins completes his story.

    I can't compare an unfinished tale to Lord of the Rings. Gotta see how it ends. Endings are important.
     
  14. Pythagoras

    Pythagoras Troubadour

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    If we are going to be technical here, Lord of the Rings was intended as a part of a much, much larger work which included the unfinished Silmarillion. In fact, LotR almost wasn't published because, after twelve years of writing, Tolkien insisted that it should be released in tandem with the Silmarillion once it was finished. So, really, Tolkien didn't finish his story either.

    But I digress.

    Another technicality: The Worm Ouroboros, by E.R. Eddison, was an adult fantasy novel that was written and published before LotR, and had an influence on Tolkien's writing. Tolkien did not invent the genre; he popularized it.

    But again, I digress.

    Overall, I agree with the general consensus of this thread. They can't be compared, and when they are, it's usually for marketing purposes or because Tolkien set the standard by which all adult fantasy authors are compared.

    I have not yet read all of Martin's books, but what I have read, I genuinely enjoyed. He is a talented writer, and his books are masterfully crafted, in my opinion.

    Tolkien is quite possibly my favorite author. His world, characters, stories, and backstories are all stirring on an elemental level. Many of my friends disagree with me, but I also really enjoy his writing style. I could say much more about both Tolkien and Martin, but I won't bore all of you who have your own opinions.

    These two authors are each worthy of their own merits.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2015
  15. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    LOTR is a finished story. No question about it. Tolkien had a lot of ideas an intentions over the years. In the end what matters is that LOTR is a published complete story and has been for decades.

    Not sure what this has to do with the subject at hand. I don't think anyone has said that Tolkien invented the genre. Though I would argue that the influence of The Worm Ouroboros on Tolkien was minimal. Tolkien's writing and Eddison's are vastly different and their approaches to storytelling are vastly different. Any similarity between the two is merely superficial. And yes, I've read The Worm Ouroboros and I find its style to really be in stark contrast to Tolkien's.

    Few people read The Worm Ouroboros these days. Fewer people love it. I confess I did not love it. I also think it is much too archaic to survive the test of time. It is really not the classic that LOTR is.
     
  16. Pythagoras

    Pythagoras Troubadour

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    I read a few posts throughout this thread that did claim Tolkien was the inventor. All I was saying was that he wasn't the first.
     
  17. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Really? Goodness. I'd strongly recommend that any aspiring fantasy writer who thinks Tolkien invented the genre should learn more about it, quick.
     
  18. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Archmage

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    Guess I might be strange then because I've also read both The Worm Ouroboros as well as Tolkien, and I love them both for their different styles.
     
  19. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    I definitely don't think it's strange to like both Eddison and Tolkien. The Worm Ouroboros certainly deserves a lot of appreciation. It really is the very first instance of real epic fantasy worldbuilding, such as it is. It has a lot of amazing imagery and brilliant passages. However, taken overall as a story, and not as a piece of fantasy history, I just found it profoundly unsatisfying in the end. Mostly because of the ending and the whole ouroboros thing which is the point but left me feeling cold toward the story. That's just my personal opinion. I'm certainly not trying to suggest that people shouldn't like both The Worm Ouroboros and Tolkien's works. I just don't think Tolkien's writing was influenced by it much at all.
     
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