Modern Heroic Fantasy: Vibrant and Diverse or Bankrupt and Nihilistic?

Big Hollywood's Leo Grin ran a post earlier this week entitled "The Bankrupt Nihilism of Our Fallen Fantasists." The "Fallen" referred not to fantasists who have passed on, but a new generation of heroic fantasy writers who have striven for a gritty and, to them, more realistic approach to what could also be called high fantasy, swords & sorcery, or epic fantasy.

The article holds up Robert E. Howard and J.R.R. Tolkien as paragons of virtue in this regard: moral writers who understood the Campbell Imperative when it comes to the heart of legend and myth. Specifically, Grin came to realize that what he cherished was "the elevated prose poetry, mythopoeic subcreation, and thematic richness that only the best fantasy achieves." Thus, to him, "This realization eliminates, at a stroke, virtually everything written under the banner of fantasy today."

The novels of Joe Abercrombie are the first to face Grin's wrath: "Think of a Lord of the Ringswhere, after stringing you along for thousands of pages, all of the hobbits end up dying of cancer contracted by their proximity to the Ring, Aragorn is revealed to be a buffoonish puppet-king of no honor and false might, and Gandalf no sooner celebrates the defeat of Sauron than he executes a long-held plot to become the new Dark Lord of Middle-earth, and you have some idea of what to expect should you descend into Abercrombie’s jaded literary sewer." (This correspondent must admit that he now wants to read a version of LotR where all of this happens.)

Joe Abercrombie: hero or villain, devil or saint?

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