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Initial post: Mar 4, 2013 8:49:58 AM PST
In your opinion, who is the most underrated and overrated author in fantasy?

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 10:33:24 AM PST
L. S. Jansen says:
I'll probably get blasted for this, but my pick is JRR Tolkien. <ducks>

Yes, he's a genius, he created languages and used mythology the way some authors used the Bible for source material ... but what's the big deal otherwise? I read the first two books of LOTR a few years ago when the movies came out. I got within the last 40 pages of the second book and realized that a] I was not enjoying what I was reading and b] forcing myself to finish the book. I gave up after that and haven't gone back. The movies were enjoyable though.

I'd rather read most of the authors who came out after Tolkien, Susan Cooper, Diana Wynne Jones, and Sir Terry Pratchett, for instance.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 11:05:51 AM PST
Yes, you probably will get blasted! :-)

However, I do know what you mean, to an extent. The most important thing about Tolkien is what you describe, and the fact that he kick-started a genre that had rather lost steam after the late 19th and very early 20th century offerings of people like Morris and Dunsany. Fantasy existed still, but very much in the realms of the pulp magazines, and largely confined to the US. Tolkien brought it back into the international 'mainstream'.

Plus, there is no rule that I know of that says you have to like Tolkien's writing.

(BTW, just to be clear: I still love Tolkien, but I very rarely read him nowadays.)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 11:32:22 AM PST
L. S. Jansen says:

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 11:33:49 AM PST
Lettuce Prey says:
It's fashionable to rag on Tolkein if you want to appear to be a "more discriminant" reader. But those at the top always take the biggest shots.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 12:07:15 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 4, 2013 12:07:26 PM PST
L. S. Jansen says:
Ah, but I'm not being "a more discriminant reader"! I'm being myself and I don't like Tolkien - he goes on and on and on ... boring. Sigh.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 12:29:14 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 4, 2013 12:29:40 PM PST
Yes, I think there's a difference.

On the one hand you have the 'pseuds', as Eox says, who decide to criticize Tolkien because it makes them look clever.

On the other hand you have people who seriously, with no pretension, don't like Tolkien. That appears to be the category you fall into, Lori! :-)

And there's nowt wrong with that. Personally, I don't get on with Dickens, and I ain't no pseud! :-)

ETA: Removed a redundant letter ...

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 12:37:17 PM PST
I think Peirs Anthony is underrated. Not to say he's not popular, but I don't think his influence has been given enough credit.

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 12:40:16 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 4, 2013 12:47:35 PM PST
Oh, and someone never fails to mention Tolkein, and it always starts an arguement. I wouldn't say that he's overrated. But, perhaps the large shadow he casts, distracts from the influence of other great writers.

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 12:45:40 PM PST
L. S. Jansen says:
Thank you Marcus. I do, indeed, fall in the second category. By no means am I demeaning Tolkien's contributions to the genre - they are important or I would not be reading the authors who came along after, as mentioned above. Two of the three were students of his, though I can not remember which one did not think very highly of the man or his teaching method (it may have been one of the other two in the book: Four British Fantasists: Place and Culture in the Children's Fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper).

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 12:51:15 PM PST
There's George Martin. He a very good writer. But is he really that much better than other contemporary authors? I've read his work. It's good. But I've read dozens of works that are equally good or better.

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 1:03:32 PM PST
Adam Stone says:
I have to agree that J.R.R.T isn't anywhere near perfect, but he was fine in his time. The genre has outgrown him now.

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 1:19:32 PM PST
For my taste, I'd have to consider Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time as over-rated. I enjoyed the first five or six books but then I became bored with the story and characters. I quit after about the 8th book and have never felt any desire to return to it or to re-read the early books.

As for being underrated, or at least under-appreciated in the US, the late British fantasy author David Gemmell would be at the top of my list. I understand that most of his books made the bestseller lists in the UK but he seems to be almost undiscovered by US readers.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 1:31:29 PM PST
That's interesting - I always assumed that Gemmell was popular in the US as well.

Now I'm going to make what might be seen as a heretical comment myself. While I love Gemmell's books, and I think he did wonders to put epic fantasy back on the map, I do, in fact, think he is rather over-rated. His novels are quite formulaic, and his characters are all very similar.

Don't get me wrong, anyone - I love his books, and often re-read them. I also think that his success was justified for many reasons. But as a writer I think he is/was over-rated.

I shall now beat a hasty retreat.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 1:32:17 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 4, 2013 1:34:11 PM PST
Captain says:
I have to agree about Gemmell. I decided to read the Drenai tales in chronological order and just finished the Waylander trilogy. It was fantastic. Starting on the Stones of Power books now.

And I also agree that his books become formulaic, which is why I'm skipping the Druss books.

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 1:35:25 PM PST
Tolkein is overrated in my opinion, but since I only got through one book, I may not be the best judge.

Underrated: L. Frank Baum. People never seem to mention him when discussing fantasy. I realize his books are aimed at children, and don't really hold up well for adults. But he created a world (well, kingdom) that is now part of our culture.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 1:55:18 PM PST
That's funny - I recently read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and didn't really think it has held up all that well.

I don't think Tolkien is overrated. I think that his writing is a very specific style that doesn't necessarily read well to modern eyes (sort of like Dickens). Professor Corey Olson (the Tolkien professor), in one of his lectures, asserts that Tolkien is a gateway writer for medievalists because his books are very much written from a medievalist world-view: instead of getting better with progress, the world begins at the point of perfection and decays. This is completely different from a modern view of the world, which takes the perspective that progress is - nearly always - a positive, and that the world is improving over time rather than decaying over time.

I don't think that everyone who doesn't like Tolkien only doesn't like Tolkien because they think it makes them appear clever. Some people just don't like him. But, in my view, he is always worth reading. Sort of like Dickens.

Posted on Mar 4, 2013 2:05:44 PM PST
Ms. Mayhem-In sci-fi, Asimov had the same positive outlook. I think people are having a harder time reading Tolkien because the language is dated. I struggle sometimes with 18th and 19th century literature, not because I can't understand it, but it's not what I'm used to. Also, Tolkien has been the standard for so long, I believe some people feel they must leave him behind in order to move forward.
Granted, he gets long winded and the prose can be a bit too much at times, but it's hard to question his genius.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 4, 2013 2:11:19 PM PST
Definitely. Plus, his writing is very formalistic, which is consistent with the world he is building. I think that because of the formal style he used, his writing isn't as immersive as modern fantasy to the modern reader. It is harder to get lost in Tolkien's world because it is a world much more obviously of the past - not just because of the world building but because of the very language he uses to tell his story.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 5, 2013 11:29:51 AM PST
That's a very interesting point. I can honestly say that, despite being a medievalist myself, I had never considered that, but it's a very good point! :-)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 5, 2013 11:41:41 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Mar 5, 2013 11:42:39 AM PST
I am not a medievalist, nor could I have come up with it on my own. I pod-casted Prof. Olson's class on Tolkien, which is where it came from. I think that my appreciation of Tolkien, in part, comes from the experience of listening to his lectures.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 5, 2013 12:09:19 PM PST
I once worked with a chap who had been at Oxford when Tolkien was there. He attended one of the Prof's lectures on either Beowulf or Gawain (forget which). Lucky chap!

My love and respect for my late father knows no bounds, but there is one thing for which I shall never forgive him: he, too, read English at Oxford, and he never went to hear Tolkien lecture - or, if he did, he never told me about it. Grrrr!

Posted on Mar 5, 2013 12:34:08 PM PST
I'll make no apology for being a Tolkein-phile. I rather like the way he chose to use a tone and language that fitted the world he created, rather than try to graft modern concepts and sensibilities into his construct.

Conversely ( and I'm sure i'll be needing my tin hat!) GRRM is the writer I find most over rated. I'm no fan of his worldbuilding or plotting, to be honest.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 5, 2013 12:58:21 PM PST
Well, Will, there are those who cry "heresy" when someone criticises Tolkien. There are those who cry "heresy" when someone criticises GRRM.

Are there people who cry "heresy" when *both* are criticised together?

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 6, 2013 6:13:35 AM PST
"For my taste, I'd have to consider Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time as over-rated."

++doublegood statement that one.
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Discussion in:  Fantasy forum
Participants:  14
Total posts:  46
Initial post:  Mar 4, 2013
Latest post:  Mar 13, 2013

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