Nor do they impress me in the least when placed into the hands of writers clearly bored with the classic mythic undertones of the genre, and who try to shake things up with what can best be described as postmodern blasphemies against our mythic heritage.
This Leo Grin chap bemoans the depressing low-fantasy of Joe Abercrombie and Steven Erikson, amongst others. I have words to say about seeing these two authors lumped in together, actually... Erikson's fantasy is anything BUT low - there are mages throwing magic at each other, Elder races, dragons, shapeshifters, gods bestriding the earth. Just because he takes many of the events down to the perspective of the ordinary grunt does not mean that these books are low fantasy. They are also not depressing - never have I felt so hopeful, or punched my fist in the air with glee as much as when I read Erikson's books.
But, anyway, my main point concerns the fact that Leo is writing out of his ass because... where are the women fantasists? Where are the women who I know damn well are writing fine mythic fantasy with beautiful prose and uplifting characters?
Let's kick off with Jacqueline Carey. She is a brilliant fantasist, who takes a faux European setting (much like Tolkien), inhabits it with various races of human and not-so-human (much like Tolkien), has her characters go on quests, fight adversity, explore concepts such as compassion, courage and doing the right thing (much like Tolkien). Oh, and in my opinion, her prose is just stunning.
I'm also going to throw in the name Ursula Le Guin, for fun - you know, the big old grandma of fantasy fiction. Le Guin's novels tackle themes such as ecological concerns, racial acceptance/diversity and politics. She couches these themes in both fantasy and science fiction works that aim to send a message without bludgeoning the reader. She is critically and commercially acclaimed, and yet finds no place in Leo's article. Maybe because she didn't fit the rather random point he was trying to make...
How about Susanna Clarke? Yes, she only really has one novel to base this on, but if you want mythic undertones - taking ancient fairytales from British culture (and others) and using it to generate a fantasy tale - then she's your gal! Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell even "felt" a little like Tolkien as I read it - the delicate prose, the slow unwinding of a tale that had multiple layers and meanings.
Now we'll look at an author who writes mostly for younger readers - Diana Wynne Jones. This is a lady who wrote Howl's Moving Castle, a piece of great importance in the tapestry of children's fantasy fiction. Much like The Hobbit is. More importantly, Diana Wynne Jones also wrote A Tough Guide to Fantasyland, which poked gentle fun and parodied much of the fantasy fiction being written by those trying to ape J R R Tolkien. Interestingly Diana Wynne Jones also lived through the war, during which time she was mostly neglected after being evacuated, and later studied under both C S Lewis and J R R Tolkien. Surely this female author should have had a mention, considering her most recent novel was published in 2010?
For me, the article is a lot of stuff and nonsense. To so blatantly ignore the female fantasists in order to make a point against gritty fantasy seems madness to me. It renders his whole argument obsolete, in my opinion. Instead of reading his tripe, get thyself down to a bookstore and pick up novels by any of these women above - and experience the beauty and myth of fantasy which is still being explored today.