Currently Reading

Currently Reading: The Undivided by Jennifer Fallon

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Bankrupt Nihilism of Kitten-powered Zeppelins

Last week a blogger who has a sufficient readership to draw the attention of the online Fantasy crowd made this post, entitled The Bankrupt Nihilism of Our Fallen Fantasists. It's very open and intense attack on the growing wave of 'gritty' Fantasy and, more problematic in my mind, the people that write it.

If this guys is taking the piss, as we say in Australia, then the article is hilarious. If not, it's still hilarious, but for very different reasons.

Perhaps the main author to come under attack is Joe Abercrombie, which is not surprising given the very recent release of The Heroes. I'm no Abercrombie fanboy (and he doesn't need me to defend him - he did just fine here). In spite of my regard for The First Law Trilogy (old review, newly posted here) I found some segments of it and the followup stand-alone novel Best Served Cold pretty hard to take. Abercrombie was pushing the envelope and at times I felt it pushed too far (for my tastes). Yet credit where credit is due, Abercrombie is working to develop something different. It manages to be subversive and entertaining while still paying homage to the traditions of the Fantasy genre

I don't object to the sentiment that this style of Fantasy is not for everyone. I have friends to whom I would not recommend Abercrombie, while I have others I would insist should drop everything and dive in. I do object to the language and imagery used in this diatribe (again, unless he's joking, in which case Abercrombie might chuckle along). I don't want to make unfair assumptions, but given the amount of religiously-charged language the writer uses it seems reasonable to conclude that the term 'Fallen' in his title is saying a bit more than 'they write poorly.' Apparently Abercrombie and friends are committing 'postmodern blasphemies against our mythic heritage.' To steal a quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the subtext pretty rapidly becomes text. Apparently in daring to use the same epic tropes that Tolkien himself borrowed is tantamount to 'taking a crucifix and dripping it in urine.' Is there a bigger issue at stake here?

I think I am more offended by the manner in which this blogger has raised classic Fantasy to a point that one can blaspheme against it than by anything Abercrombie has penned. I think any author would happily say if you don't like it, don't buy it, don't read it. But don't tell them what their 'real' intentions were. There are many modern mythmakers whose works maintain the 'elevated prose' this blogger seeks. Some of them are even women, though you wouldn't know it to read the original post.


  1. You think that's bad, try this one, which uses Grin as its foundation, over at Black Gate: .

    I have a response to it going up at Apex today. I wish I could go back and add your point about "real intentions" because that is spot-on.

  2. "Grin was merciful in that he didn’t point out the inherent cowardice and hypocrisy of modern fantasy writers as he so easily might have done."


    Thanks for the kind comment and for being the first to post on my blog who wasn't:
    a) my sister
    b) trying to sell me something.

    I'm checking out the blog over at Apex now.