This is an excellent collection of essays about writing and reading fantasy that anybody writing a script in Hollywood should have as mandatory reading. Moorcock's main point is a criticism of black/white heavily romanticized fantasy fiction that for instance films like A Princes' Bride and Shrek poke fun at. Wellwritten and intelligent. Recommended for anyone that has more than a passing interest in fantasy
If you're at all familiar with Moorcock's divergent take on fantasy literature, then there will be little in this book that will take you by surprise. The book is a collection of essays about various aspects of high/epic fantasy writing, culminating in the infamous 'Epic Pooh' essay in which Moorcock accuses J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis of producing a form of 'corrupted romanticism' that is nostalgic for a rural past that can't be regained (and probably never actually existed). Moorcock cites the likes of Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea series as an admirable counterpoint, and essentially this is the aim of the book: to call on both authors and readers to maintain a level of artistic and intellectual integrity in reading and writing fantasy literature. It is by no means a new argument, but it never hurts to be reminded, and Moorcock substantiates his arguments with comprehensive examples that are a result of being widely read and immersed in the genre for quite a number of years.
The major flaw in Moorcock's writing is a frustrating tendency to quote enormous chunks of his source novels at the expense of digging deeper into his arguments. One could argue that the texts speak for themselves and little extrapolation on Moorcock's part isn't required, but I paid for his interpretation and perspective. It's great that he has so much material to substantiate his claims, but it has the frustrating effect of breaking up his writing in places. Despite this, Moorcock remains an influential figure and his arguments in this book shouldn't be ignored.
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When it comes to Fantasy, there are few better than Moorcock. He's read the best, he's written the best, he's been the best.
In this collection of essays, Moorcock casts a critical, no holds barred, eye over the genre. The result is an insightful, and sometimes frustrating look at the evolution of the fantasy genre.
Moorcock is right to have a go at Tolkien. As much as I've enjoyed the LOTR, there are aspects of it that do not stand up to critical scrutiny. Moorcock's championing of Fritz Lieber and Mervyn Peake, as giants of the genre, is long overdue, and introduced me to criminally overlooked novels. For that, I'm grateful.
The role of women in the genre ( criticised for being often two dimensional or the stereotypical maiden in distress) and the use of evocative imagery (landscapes) are discussed, and yield up insights, that no aspiring fantasy author should do without.
On the negative side, the random insertion of obscure authors, and the structure of this book (random essay thrown together) did make me gnash my teeth at times.
As a critique of the genre or as a primer in fantasy writing, I have yet to come across a comparable book. Well worth a look.
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