Category Archives: Fantasy Criticism

‘A Tale of Two Hobbits’ (2014)

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The Invincible Female Warrior who’s not in the freakin’ book… and Tolkien never said his Elves have Mr. Spock ears.

Whenever I think about maybe someday, somebody making a Bell Mountain movie, a report like this makes me cringe and shiver.

https://leeduigon.com/2014/12/22/a-tale-of-two-hobbits/

I do understand the unavoidable necessity of making some changes when moving a story from the printed page to the big screen. But the changes made in these “Hobbit” movies, had J.R.R. Tolkien lived to see them, would have killed him dead.

Their very existence proves there’s no such thing as a vengeful ghost.


‘How One of My Characters Grew: Old Uduqu’

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Two years after I wrote this post, Uduqu’s still here, still pursuing his dream to be the first Abnak to write a book (or read one, for that matter).

https://leeduigon.com/2016/03/27/how-one-of-my-characters-grew-old-uduqu/

I can only speak for myself, but this is one of the most fun things about writing fiction: the way characters walk into the story for just a page or two, and the next thing you know, they stay! You should see what Redegger the vice boss gets up to in His Mercy Endureth Forever. And I knew no better than Lord Chutt what Zeriah was going to do after she was elected Judge of Obann.

I think the unexpected is a sign that you’ve made your characters real.


‘How to Write a Politically Correct Fantasy’ (2015)

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Posting this on Monday for publication today, while we rattle around in New Jersey Traffic, looking for the cunningly concealed doctor’s office. So as I write this, I don’t know what the results of the election will be.

But you don’t need a crystal ball to see what kind of world the Democrats mean to engineer for us. Here is one of its many tedious aspects:

https://leeduigon.com/2015/11/13/how-to-write-a-politically-correct-fantasy/

Just remember, if it turned out badly yesterday: we had the chance to crush the Political Correctness party, and we didn’t do it.


How I Fell in Love with Fantasy

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Someone around here was enthused enough to prefer my books to J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Well, what can I say?

I first read The Lord of the Rings in high school, and it overwhelmed me. My imagination was already on fire, thanks to Edgar Rice Burroughs–first his Pellucidar novels, and then his tales of adventure on Mars. But Tolkien–!

I was astonished that such a book could ever have been written. Burroughs’ books are short; Tolkien’s was a monumental trilogy. You wind up spending a lot of time in it. The marvelous thing about The Lord of the Rings was that it positively came alive for me: it made me believe in the story that it told. Perhaps it was the mass of detail: Tolkien’s imaginary world is vast. To this day, after many re-readings, I’m sure I could find my way around the Shire, and I’m sure I’d like it there. And I’d know which places to avoid–Mordor, Mirkwood, and the Mines of Moria.

I’ve never seen any illustrations of LOTR which satisfied me. That’s because Tolkien’s art made his people and places real to me, as if I’d actually been there, seen them; and any illustration is, of course, someone else’s imagination, and can never show me anything exactly how I’d already imagined it myself.

It gave me a burning desire to write fantasy. I can’t even guess how many pages I turned out in notebooks, and on my old manual typewriter, trying to imitate Tolkien, trying to match him. But I can say it took several decades for me to realize that the world didn’t need another Tolkien: any fantasies I wrote would have to be my fantasies, and no one else’s. And that took another couple of decades to accomplish.

It’s important to remember that when LOTR came out, there was nothing else remotely like it. Since then, the fantasy genre has been suffocated with Tolkien wannabes, shamelessly ripping off his once-upon-a-time unique creation. I still love Tolkien’s Elves and Dwarves and warriors, etc., but find everybody else’s cheap imitations intolerable. I suspect that if my first reading had been now instead of then, it wouldn’t have had the impact that it did.

Burroughs and Tolkien inspired me, and I doubt my own books would ever have been written if I hadn’t read theirs first. I still stand up and salute The Chessmen of Mars, and in my imagination, search for the road to the forest of Lothlorien.


A Wasted Opportunity

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“Thomas Locke” is Bunn’s pseudonymn.

So you’ve got an already-successful Christian author with a large fan base, writing in a popular genre with a wide readership, and a major publisher to produce and market the book–golden opportunity, right? An opportunity to win ground in the culture for Christ’s Kingdom.

Wrong. Instead, all these resources came together to make, well, a bunch of nothing.

https://chalcedon.edu/resources/articles/review-of-christian-novel-emissary

T. Davis Bunn had all this going for him when he set out to write his first fantasy novel, Emissary, three years ago. So he decided to write a “completely mainstream, totally secular” fantasy novel–that is, he cobbled together a thorough collection of fantasy cliches: and the big huge Christian publisher, Zondervan, published it.

Waste, waste, waste.

 


‘New Fantasy by Y.B. Sane Already Rated Best of 21st Century’ (2015)

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You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to satirize certain aspects of today’s pop culture. The problem is, it keeps satirizing itself. No wonder one of my readers, for a moment there, thought this was a real book.

https://leeduigon.com/2015/02/05/new-fantasy-by-y-b-sane-already-rated-best-of-21st-century/

Come to think of it, I didn’t have to stretch a lot of real fantasy novels very far to come up with this monstrosity.


‘What Is “Christian Fantasy”?’ (2014)

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This blog wouldn’t exist if I weren’t writing fantasy novels steeped in a Biblical worldview–notice how cleverly I dodge the term, “Christian fantasy”–so it’s a subject that ought to be discussed here, from time to time.

https://leeduigon.com/2014/12/03/what-is-christian-fantasy/

You know I don’t want to just slap “Christian stuff” onto my stories like refrigerator magnets. The “Christian” in any Christian fiction should be the heart and soul of the story, without which there is no story.

A simple enough idea, but there seem to be a lot of writers who don’t get it.

To put it simply, and to make clear that this is my personal statement, “Christian fantasy” is any fantasy fiction firmly anchored in the Bible: cut the cable, and the story simply drifts away.


‘Fiddling with Fantasy while Rome Burns’ (2011)

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People were asking me this seven years ago, and I still get asked today: with the world on fire all around you, why are you writing fantasy?

https://leeduigon.com/2011/08/15/fiddling-with-fantasy-while-rome-burns/

If anything, there’s more fire in more places than there was in 2011; and I have to work harder on my fantasy. Is it too simple an answer to say I do it because God has called me to do it?

This is my work. I do it in His service, and I pray it gives Him glory and that He will find a use for it.


It’s Finally Sunny Again

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I’ve lost an awful lot of time due to bad weather, but the sun is finally out again, I can’t ride my bike because of a flat tire (I told the guy not to over-inflate it!), so I’m out there trying to play catch-up on my current book, His Mercy Endureth Forever (Bell Mountain No. 12). As for The Temptation, we’re waiting on Kirk DouPonce’s cover art.

Meanwhile, the story is hurtling toward a climax–and I don’t know what it’s going to be. The Lord will tell me when I’m not expecting it. But poor Obann, what a mess! A savage horde of Hyena Men has invaded the country, and Jack and Ellayne somehow have to smuggle Lord Orth into the city so he can call Obann to repentance before it’s too late. I have no idea whether he’ll succeed.

A brief thought on fantasy-writing in general:

Overcome the temptation to give your characters names that are just too far out for the reader to stomach. If your fantasy novel starts sounding like a Russian novel translated by someone from Venus, you’re doing it wrong. I once read a Lawrence Sanders book in which the hero was named Jack Smack and the heroine, a femme fatale, Clementine Cadiddlehopper or something like that. I found those names detracting from the conviction of the story. So don’t do that.


I Am So Sick(!) of Buxom Wenches…

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I’ve just received my copy of Visions of Light and Shadow by our esteemed colleague, Allison Reid (we know her here as “Weavingword”), Book No. 3 of her Wind Rider Chronicles. I’m looking forward to reading it as soon as I catch up on some other assignments. I know it’ll be good–in fact, a good book to read in bed.

One of the things I love about her books is that Allison has female protagonists who don’t conform to fantasy cliches, but instead are kind of normal people, albeit interesting ones,  who happen to be caught up in extraordinary events. This helps me to believe in the story as I’m reading it.

The fantasy genre–these books are fantasy novels–is smothered in cliches. For an art form that leans so heavily on the imagination, these toweringly unimaginative touches constitute literary crimes. The genre is notably poverty-stricken in its cast of female characters.

I can’t decide which female fantasy cliche I detest the most–The Invincible Female Warrior or The Buxom Tavern Wench. Their presence in so many fantasy novels is almost mandatory. From the moment each is introduced, you know exactly, down the most minute detail, what she is going to say or do in any situation–because you’ve already seen it hundreds of times before. They tend to form tag-teams with the male cliches, like The Thief With A Heart Of Gold or The Brawling Lusty Barbarian Warrior Who Can Drink Any Norse God Under The Freakin’ Table. These are not the only trite and overdone characters in fantasy, not by a long shot–The Know-It-All Fantastically Handsome Elf springs to mind–but it’s a rare story which doesn’t stifle the reader’s imagination with these.

Anyway, Allison’s books are all available in paperback now; and if you enjoy fantasy but hate cliches, try ’em, you’ll like ’em.


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