January 25th, 2011

Magnum Opus

Posted for later reference and commentary

The Shortest Distance Between Two Towers, by Steve Tompkins.

I'm only half-through this, and want to read it when there's a more favorable gray-matter-to-phlegm ratio in my cranium.

The author takes issue with the idea that Tolkien is not Sword and Sorcery, and in fact has far more in common with Robert E. Howard than most genre observers would grant.

Since I've loudly advocated the "plaid and paisley" position myself, this interests me.

I've also become keenly aware that Howard's work is another critical gap in my reading history. When I first dove into Sword & Sorcery after getting initiated into D&D in 1978, I read Moorcock and Lieber ... but not Howard. My exposure to Conan, to that point, was through the Marvel comics I mostly ignored. Milius's 1982 film and its star did nothing to temper my inaccurate impression of Howard's best-known creation as "Big Dumb Guy With Sword".

I know that's not the case, after reading about Howard's work for decades—and yet, I've never cracked the covers of a Howard tome.

That needs to change—particularly since my own magnum opus is assertively on the Sword & Sorcery side of the fantasy divide.

If there really is such a divide.

Addendum: Also adding a "read when brain works" link to Spacesuit, Blaster and Science(!): Confronting the Uneasy Relationship between Science Fiction and Heroic Fantasy, by Michal Wojcik, which addresses another set of genre-trope prejudices I hold even though I know they don't bear sustained scrutiny.