Friday, October 15, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 66

This is an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as an author.

Wizardry and Wild Romance
by Michael Moorcock

Wizardry and Wild Romance: A Study of Epic FantasyI had heard about and read about this book, so it was with some joy that I stumbled upon it in a book store a few years ago. I was familiar with a good bit of author Moorcock's early Sword and Sorcery writings, and I was intrigued at what he had to say about the sub-genre in particular and fantasy literature over all.

What this book is is Moorcock's personal analysis of the fantasy genre, with his opinions about a handful of the better-known authors in the genre.

I found surprises here, some that might even be considered shocking to many fans of the genre. For instance, Moorcock seems to have a hate-on for Tolkien. And for C.S. Lewis, as well. Moorcock spends more than a few words in print about the banality of these two, how he finds them boring, boring, boring. And Moorcock goes on the heap plenty of scorn on the heads of those who would follow directly in the footsteps of the likes of Tolkien and Lewis.

But that shouldn't stop any fantasy fans from reading this book. Why? Because those fans will learn quite a bit. They might even have their eyes and their minds opened to other fantasy literature, books and stories that aren't so well known but still contain much literary merit.

Also, Moorcock provides quite the extensive overview of the history of the fantasy genre, mentioning ancient works, gothic literature of the 19th Century, early 20th Century writers and so forth. There is knowledge in spades to be found in this book, and much of it will be new to most fans of fantasy.

To learn of hidden gems of the fantasy genre, to gain a basic understanding from where the genre has come, this book is indispensable.

Up next: Dragons of Autumn Twilight


Charles Gramlich said...

I was pretty irritated at some of the things he said but it was an interesting book, and useful to a scholar of the field for sure.

Ty Johnston said...

Moorcock could never be accused of not being opinionated. Science fiction has Harlan, fantasy has Moorcock.

I wouldn't say I was irritated at Moorcock's opinions in this book, but I was kind of baffled that he didn't seem to get that many of the same things that disgusted him about "traditional" fantasy (Tolkien, for example) are what many readers love. His opinions are his opinions, and there's nothing wrong with them in and of themselves, but he seemed quite condescending, almost as if anyone who could read a C.S. Lewis novel and enjoy it was an idiot. It's just a difference of opinions, in my opinion, and readers seek out different things in their literature. Few readers are picking up a fantasy novel for literary study and criticism, though some are. Nothing wrong with a little escapism, even if it's escapism to a simpler world based upon someone's idyllic visions of their childhood, national history, etc.

To quote John Gardner, " ... criticism makes art sound more intellectual than it is ... "