Fantasy Faction

Fantasy Faction Writers => Writers' Corner => Topic started by: Asinus1223 on July 31, 2016, 12:32:54 AM

Title: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Asinus1223 on July 31, 2016, 12:32:54 AM
JRR Tolkien's books bit me hard when I was a kid, and I've wanted to write fantasy my whole life.   Just recently, I've allotted more time for writing and now there are close to 30K words.  What I'm wondering is, does it make any sense to sweat this out only to end up being Terry Brooks forty years late?

The cliches are all there; standard fantasy races Elves Dwarves, Orcs, played pretty straight with a couple more of my own creation, but no werewolves, etc.  More sex and more religion than Tolkien had, cause I'm a pretty sexy and religious guy.

The stuff reads pretty good, and I'm astounded at how quickly the characters and subplots present themselves, and the world is filling out and taking shape.  I'm having a rollicking good time writing this, but I'd be terribly disappointed if nobody ever read it because it came out twenty years too late for changing fashions.   ;D

Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Peat on July 31, 2016, 01:53:44 AM
More religion that Tolkien? *raises eyebrow* The Lord of the Rings has a fairly heavy hit of Tolkien's theology and it's not that far beneath the surface. That's an awful lot of religion.

Anyway, yes, you won't be in fashion right now. By the time you finish it, who knows? Maybe he'll be back in. Maybe you'll bring him back in! Besides, for some, Tolkien-style fantasy never goes out of fashion. There'll always be an audience if you can just figure out how to reach it.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: cupiscent on July 31, 2016, 01:57:03 AM
The important part is this:

I'm having a rollicking good time writing this

Write what makes you excited. Write what you can't wait to get to the keyboard and write. Because a) you need that energy to get you through the process of writing, revising, polishing, submitting, whatever, but most importantly b) as you note, fashions change. By the time you finish writing, who knows, maybe the market will be dying for some retro Tolkien goodness. :)

Also c) you will learn so much from writing and completing a story. Even if this is not the book that you sell, everything you learn from it will make your next story so much better.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: zmunkz on July 31, 2016, 07:28:19 AM
I wouldn't worry about fashion so much. New fashions are set when someone writes a great book about something. If you have a good and original story to tell, it doesn't matter if it pulls in some well worn tropes. There is always an audience for Tolkien-esque fantasy, and it sounds like you are adding some additional layers as well.

More religion that Tolkien? *raises eyebrow* The Lord of the Rings has a fairly heavy hit of Tolkien's theology and it's not that far beneath the surface.

Not compared to his contemporary and friend C.S. Lewis, lol. But yeah, they both definitely played with Christian symbolism. Not sure if the OP means actual religions or fantasy religions.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Russ on July 31, 2016, 05:02:53 PM

I think the short answer to your question is "yes." 

There seems to be no end to the market for fairly traditional high fantasy.  I am part of that market.

To go a step further, l would suggest that almost no one can "write the market" or "write to the market." if you are trying to hit a trend by writing to it, you are likely too late. 

You can however, get lucky when the market comes to you.  I have a friend who wrote a thriller and could not sell it, so he stuck in a drawer.  I think he then published a few books and did well and then the market changed.  His agent called him up and said that he had several publishers who would now like to pay good money for that book in the drawer and it became his breakout novel.

Making a living as a commercial fiction writer is very hard to get started at, but I don't think writing to the market will work for you.  Write what you love and as long as you keep the audience parked somewhere in  your consciousness (I like to think of my potential audience as silent partners in my writing) you will have a shot.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: The Gem Cutter on July 31, 2016, 06:40:53 PM
First, if the story and characters are compelling, all other rules can be overlooked. If you can invoke the genre's tropes successfully, and prevent them from being clichés, your story will prosper. Of course, that's for the reader to judge, and therein lies your peril.

My unsolicited advice - instead of elves and dwarves, invent your own races. There's no sense of discovery for readers to see these people, and imho fantasy is all about discovery (see Tolkein's essay On Fairy Stories). This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with readers limitations, many of which are self-imposed.

As a reader of Tolkein since I was 5 or 6, I will confide that I do not read fantasy that has elves for many reasons. I am bored with attempts to recreate Tolkein's elves, and no other elves come close - because I won't let them. I am bored with people trying to re-invent elves and dwarves because, using the same terms, because for me, it's not re-invention, it's either perversion (unwelcome change) or repetition. Author R. Scott Bakker wrote an essay explaining this better than I can (or will).

Using him as an example, he created a race that is immortal and "high", but now fallen. They embody madness and greatness and perversion and memory so deep that they literally have become mad, their perversion driven by their attempt to remember and keep themselves whole in the face of all the centuries. He is a controversial writer, and I do not point to him as a model of any kind for the purposes of this discussion beyond his success as deploying standard genre tropes (conan-like warrior, sorcerors, immortals, etc.) in a new and interesting way.

There is a maxim in Michal Greene's 48 Laws of Power that states "Never follow a great man", meaning, never step into a role that was previously held by an amazing person - no matter how well you do, even if you're better, you will be seen as different, and in the shadow of the excellent, "different" always means worse.

I feel your pain and longing for a return to Middle Earth. I advise you to take the notions that make that experience and goal worthwhile, and create a new world, with new people, and new problems, and take us there.

My two cents, offered with encouragement and humility - Gem Cutter
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Peat on August 01, 2016, 01:39:01 AM
Yet a considerable number of authors enjoy very happy and successful careers by being shamelessly derivative, and in the process, presumably write pretty much exactly what they want to write. I would personally consider that far more important than how the world ranks an author against his peers.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Venandiaer on August 01, 2016, 01:56:00 AM
I am also working to write my own fantasy story with elves, dwarves etc. I was wondering, if you do attempt a sort of twist on the various cliches do you guys think it's better to rename the races or stick with the old names?
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: The Gem Cutter on August 01, 2016, 03:01:30 AM
Venandier, for me, as a reader, yes, renaming helps me not hold the work to a Tolkien standard. That is a shallow but useful technique imho.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Peat on August 01, 2016, 03:13:56 AM
Whereas I tend to roll my eyes at not-elves that are totally elves. I'm looking at you here Mercedes Lackey!

Admittedly, I don't do anything more than roll my eyes, where as there are people who actively avoid anything called an elf, so you're probably better taking Gem Cutter's advice. But I prefer it when people call an elf an elf.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Raptori on August 01, 2016, 03:17:07 AM
Venandier, for me, as a reader, yes, renaming helps me not hold the work to a Tolkien standard. That is a shallow but useful technique imho.
Depends very much on the reader though. It annoys me when someone puts something well known in their book with minor changes at best and just slaps a new name on it.

Example: the Kanlins in GGK's Under Heaven - a caste of mysterious black-clad warriors who are known for their ability to sneak around and scale walls, assassinate or protect people, who are experts in close combat, who are available to hire and known for integrity, in a novel set in a far-eastern country. Every time I saw the word "Kanlin", I wished he had just called the damn things ninjas.

If you have a pointy-eared and long-lived group of people who live in forests and love nature and magic, they're elves to me no matter what you try to call them, and any attempt to name them otherwise is just annoying.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: The Gem Cutter on August 01, 2016, 05:30:19 AM
It occurs to me that the question "Is it good/permissible/advisable/possible to use elves and dwarves?" is tolerable only because we're familiar with the question.

Would people be on board with a work featuring Wookies or Vulcans or whatever the hell Yoda is?
Would we be comfortable writing stories with the Force, pulling characters toward noble and selfish acts?
How about an English investigator with a pipe, a drug habit, and an amazing eye for detail?
How about an island with a ginormous gorilla?

Focusing solely on whether it would be worthwhile to read (let alone write) works like these, the half-answer that comes to my mind is "Yes - when it's fan fiction, otherwise, no." Like diet drinks, they seem OK if properly labeled "LOTR, but with less sugar!"

Why am I so against this? Because it's been done over and over and over and over and over, and then there's the copies of the copies, and their copies, and theirs. Spinoffs and, dare I say, ripoffs are neither new nor going anywhere. But no one remembers the people who wrote Kull the Conqueror or the Beastmaster (Conan ripoffs).

True, some few stepped into Tolkien's void in the first decades after his death, but that space is now occupied and, those works are fading. And though 'successful', they never rose above the image of "thin, weak copies." Those author's non-Tolkienesque works - how successful were they? Meh. And why would they be, when their writers never developed the creative skill (and confidence) to envision new and compelling peoples and lands?

Fantasy is hard to do well, for reasons few genres share. Mystery and romance are just as hard, but for them, it's about adhering to a much tighter constellation of conventions. Our readers are among the most difficult to please that exist anywhere, or at any time in the past. But we have something other genres do not - hungry readers craving new everything. My unsolicited advice - give it to them.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Elfy on August 01, 2016, 06:37:43 AM
But no one remembers the people who wrote Kull the Conqueror or the Beastmaster (Conan ripoffs).



I'm not sure who wrote The Beastmaster, but Kull the Conqueror possibly appears to be a Conan ripoff, because Robert E. Howard also created the character and wrote about him. In fact Kull predates Conan. So Conan may actually be a Kull ripoff.

To the OP. There's nothing wrong with something that is Tolkienesque, but it is still a fairly crowded market and the only way to make something like that stand out from the crowd is to make it superlative
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: cupiscent on August 01, 2016, 06:59:19 AM
I wish I had the time to ponder for paragraphs about whether the common-or-garden elves-dwarves-and-whatever in the cultural fantasy consciousness at present have more to do with Tolkien or D&D (by, admittedly, way of Tolkien, but with a lot of alteration).

It's probably best for everyone that I don't. ;p
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Lanko on August 01, 2016, 12:56:37 PM
Venandier, for me, as a reader, yes, renaming helps me not hold the work to a Tolkien standard. That is a shallow but useful technique imho.
Depends very much on the reader though. It annoys me when someone puts something well known in their book with minor changes at best and just slaps a new name on it.

Example: the Kanlins in GGK's Under Heaven - a caste of mysterious black-clad warriors who are known for their ability to sneak around and scale walls, assassinate or protect people, who are experts in close combat, who are available to hire and known for integrity, in a novel set in a far-eastern country. Every time I saw the word "Kanlin", I wished he had just called the damn things ninjas.

If you have a pointy-eared and long-lived group of people who live in forests and love nature and magic, they're elves to me no matter what you try to call them, and any attempt to name them otherwise is just annoying.

This was also one of my biggest issues with GGK. The Erlings are a exact copy of the Vikings, with longships (called dragonships or something like that here). The Anglacyn are the Anglo-Saxon, the Cyngael are the Celts. Jaddhinism is Christianism, some other name was pretty much druids and so on.

Quote from: The Gem Cutter
As a reader of Tolkein since I was 5 or 6, I will confide that I do not read fantasy that has elves for many reasons. I am bored with attempts to recreate Tolkein's elves, and no other elves come close - because I won't let them. I am bored with people trying to re-invent elves and dwarves because, using the same terms, because for me, it's not re-invention, it's either perversion (unwelcome change) or repetition.

And also this.

The only time I totally accepted elves/dwarves again in a story was actually in a game: Dragon Age, who did them so well. And they also invented some other races too.
There was a nice dwarf in The Witcher, but I didn't go very far into that game.

As for books, whenever I see elves of dwarves mentioned in the cover or blurb is an instant "nope".

But don't let that discourage you. If people continue to use elves/dwarves, it's because there are people who simply love them and can't have enough of them. There's audience for everything.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: cupiscent on August 02, 2016, 07:49:16 AM
This was also one of my biggest issues with GGK. The Erlings are a exact copy of the Vikings, with longships (called dragonships or something like that here). The Anglacyn are the Anglo-Saxon, the Cyngael are the Celts. Jaddhinism is Christianism, some other name was pretty much druids and so on.

Mmm, they are, but they also aren't. I mean, in Lions of Al-Rassan, Rodrigo Belmonte is clearly Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (right down to the nickname, El Cid (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Cid)) but the story he tells is not quite how it happened in history. Similarly, the Sarantine Mosaic pair of books is clearly about Justininan I (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justinian_I) and his wife Theodora, but it didn't quite go like that in our world's history. He's obvious and respectful about his historical inspirations, but he's not writing history, and to me, the name changes are part of his signposting of that. (And, for my money, his books are all the more satisfying for his messing with history to explore concepts and themes in a more fictionally satisfying way.)
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Lanko on August 02, 2016, 07:37:09 PM
This was also one of my biggest issues with GGK. The Erlings are a exact copy of the Vikings, with longships (called dragonships or something like that here). The Anglacyn are the Anglo-Saxon, the Cyngael are the Celts. Jaddhinism is Christianism, some other name was pretty much druids and so on.

Mmm, they are, but they also aren't. I mean, in Lions of Al-Rassan, Rodrigo Belmonte is clearly Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (right down to the nickname, El Cid (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Cid)) but the story he tells is not quite how it happened in history. Similarly, the Sarantine Mosaic pair of books is clearly about Justininan I (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Justinian_I) and his wife Theodora, but it didn't quite go like that in our world's history. He's obvious and respectful about his historical inspirations, but he's not writing history, and to me, the name changes are part of his signposting of that. (And, for my money, his books are all the more satisfying for his messing with history to explore concepts and themes in a more fictionally satisfying way.)

Interesting. Maybe it was just The Last Light of the Sun then. It really felt very similar, down to northmen raids with longships, the English equivalent of a shrewd king who converted the pagan invaders to his religion, and so on. The Celtic parts had some real magic with faeries playing valkyries, but that was it.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Peat on August 02, 2016, 09:29:27 PM
I think you sorta missed the point Lanko. Its meant to feel very similar. Its an alternate history as much as its a fantasy.

When GGK renames something, he's never doing it to try and hide the inspiration or dress it up as something new. Its just to make it a bit more alternate.

My issue with calling non-elves by another name is when it feels like the author is trying to say "No no no, these elves aren't elves". Calling your elves Tiste, for example is a-okay with me if no one's pretending they're not elves.

Incidentally, I must bristle at the idea that elves/dwarves = Tolkien clone. Elves and dwarves are now property of the greater fantasy community, largely because basically every big name in fantasy gaming has them, and their existence in a book is rarely a sign of someone harking back directly to Tolkien. The Eye of the World is far more of a Tolkien clone that a good number of books with elves/dwarves despite having none; it is also probably going to go down as one of the enduring classics of fantasy.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Lanko on August 02, 2016, 10:09:12 PM
I guess I did leave margin for that interpretation.

Cupiscent said his other books states pretty clearly his historical inspiration, but he added twists and explored themes and other fantastical things in other ways that didn't happen in the real history.
What I meant is that in Last Light this didn't happen, most of it was the same: Vikings raiding England, invaders slowly converting to Christianism, just with different names. Even the Erling deity had two ravens and a son that wielded a thunder hammer.

It felt just like you said, "Hey, pretend these vikings aren't vikings".
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: cupiscent on August 03, 2016, 02:33:16 AM
Cupiscent said his other books states pretty clearly his historical inspiration, but he added twists and explored themes and other fantastical things in other ways that didn't happen in the real history. What I meant is that in Last Light this didn't happen, most of it was the same: Vikings raiding England, invaders slowly converting to Christianism, just with different names. Even the Erling deity had two ravens and a son that wielded a thunder hammer.

Sorry, I didn't do Last Light because that's not one of my favourites of his and I don't know as much about it, but if I do a little googling, the wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Light_of_the_Sun) notes the analogues to Alfred the Great's Anglo-Saxon England and the associated conflicts of the time.

For me, these are two different questions, though. I find GGK's renaming very respectful, because it's noting that his ninjas aren't ninjas, because ninjas are a part of a complex social, historical network, and he's made changes to that. Just saying, "they wear black and kick arse in an Asian way, so they're ninjas," is somewhat disrespectful to all the other things that make up who and what ninjas were, and also to Asian cultures. GGK shows his inspiration, but he doesn't pretend that his version are the original thing.

But elves are made up.* I'm a lot less troubled by an author saying, "Yes, but my elves are toasted." (To paraphrase Mad Men.)

* OK, elves and dwarves are a mythological part of various European histories. But the way they appear in modern fantasy - having bridged from mythology to pure fantasy via Tolkien's interpretation - is already separated from their real-world cultural context, so I'm taking them as a purely fictional thing.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: The Gem Cutter on August 03, 2016, 05:45:28 PM
Cupiscent,
I appreciate your observations on the ninja thing - I had come to look at ninjas as the trope they have become in pop culture, but my study of them began in the 70s before their emergence in our pop culture.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Deads on August 03, 2016, 10:17:19 PM
Classy high fantasy never goes out of style. It's like a sailor jerry tattoo...

That being said.. I saw more than one reply include the phrase "Write what makes you excited" in one form or another. I think that's excellent advice.

Also, I'd be a beta reader..
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: J.R. Darewood on August 04, 2016, 09:06:51 AM
But don't let that discourage you. If people continue to use elves/dwarves, it's because there are people who simply love them and can't have enough of them. There's audience for everything.

That would be me!  Can't read enough high fantasy.  But having magic is more important than elves or dwarves.

So:
I wish I had the time to ponder for paragraphs about whether the common-or-garden elves-dwarves-and-whatever in the cultural fantasy consciousness at present have more to do with Tolkien or D&D (by, admittedly, way of Tolkien, but with a lot of alteration).

It's probably best for everyone that I don't. ;p

Please do!!!  I'd say Tolkien and D&D hit me at the same time, but elves, they go way back before them  Tolkien and D&D may have put elves into an anthropomorphized political construct, but the fair folk, the aelfar of Old Norse and German mythology etc etc.  There's a rich and diverse mythology there to explore.

In that sense, it's a little absurd to decide that anything with an elf or a dwarf in it is a Tolkien rip off.  Everyone writing in High Fantasy (or fantasy at all) owes a huge, huge, HUUUUUUUGE debt to Tolkien, but elves and dwarves have been in song, myth and story long before and long after him.

I, btw write Tolkien/D&D rip offs as well :)  I hope you're having as much fun as I am!
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Peat on August 04, 2016, 02:16:29 PM
The current "glut"* of elves definitely owes more to D&D imo. They're more similar in tone - less immortal lords touched by heaven, more equal to humans, the whole high/wood elf vs dark elf war thing. And stuff. Your average elf lord today would appear to have more of the Elric than the Elrond.


*I read a lot more books without elves than with them. I could happily read more, tbh.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: TBM on August 06, 2016, 10:37:16 PM
Elves love nature? Says who? Some do I'm sure. Some don't. People aren't one note.

Elves are slender? Again, says who? Why not have a stocky elf? Or a muscular one? Or god forbid a fat one?

Elves are magical? Maybe some. Maybe others are just peasants who never cast a spell in their lives.

Tolkien's elves were utopian specifically because of the three rings of power. Without those, they knew they'd have to do basic work, and manual labour. They'd have to actually live like human beings. If they were actually exposed to the harsh reality of nature, they may well not be nature lovers. Probably not.

 Somebody tell me why Paolini's elves were utopian. Oh right, because the dragons sustained it. Well the dragons were almost all dead. So why are they utopian? Just because Tolkien did it.

People act like not making elves a race of utopian mary sues is a perversion of "true" elvish. It's crazy.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: TBM on August 06, 2016, 10:39:43 PM

Elves love nature? Says who? Some do I'm sure. Some don't. People aren't one note.

Elves are slender? Again, says who? Why not have a stocky elf? Or a muscular one? Or god forbid a fat one?

Elves are magical? Maybe some. Maybe others are just peasants who never cast a spell in their lives.

Tolkien's elves were utopian specifically because of the three rings of power. Without those, they knew they'd have to do basic work, and manual labour. They'd have to actually live like human beings. If they were actually exposed to the harsh reality of nature, they may well not be nature lovers. Probably not.

 Somebody tell me why Paolini's elves were utopian. Oh right, because the dragons sustained it. Well the dragons were almost all dead. So why are they utopian? Just because Tolkien did it.

People act like not making elves a race of utopian mary sues is a perversion of "true" elvish. It's crazy.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Peat on August 06, 2016, 11:48:46 PM
Uhm. Based on the elves I've seen in fiction, I think you're complaining about something that doesn't exist.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: TBM on August 07, 2016, 12:03:35 AM
Uhm. Based on the elves I've seen in fiction, I think you're complaining about something that doesn't exist.

It exists in this very topic.

Quote
Quote from: The Gem Cutter

    As a reader of Tolkein since I was 5 or 6, I will confide that I do not read fantasy that has elves for many reasons. I am bored with attempts to recreate Tolkein's elves, and no other elves come close - because I won't let them. I am bored with people trying to re-invent elves and dwarves because, using the same terms, because for me, it's not re-invention, it's either perversion (unwelcome change) or repetition.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Peat on August 07, 2016, 02:12:59 AM
I read your post as being a universal criticism of how people act over elves. Apologies if you're talking about a specific subset of people, but that's not how it came across.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Lady Ty on August 07, 2016, 05:12:44 AM
@Asinus1223 (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=31507) what a great discussion you began. Hope it has encouraged you to go ahead because  the general opinion seems to be that there is still room for traditional elves and dwarves and that fantasy writers should write what they want to and what they enjoy. Good luck to you, I love traditional epic fantasy and will welcome any that is well written with good characters, an interesting world and exciting action. Hope you keep us posted when you feel like sharing more.

But there is also plenty of support for new and different versions and I go all the way with that as well. It never needs to be either/or, room for all.  As long as they are well written, I will be happy to read. Nor do I care what names are used. If they are in a different world as far as I am concerned they can have any name the writer likes to call them. Their characteristics may be elven or dwarvish or whatever,  and they may conjure up a particular image but they deserve the writer's choice of name.

There have been excellent new and unusual versions of Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Arthur Conan Doyle classics and their characters recently.  I believe those authors would be happy and proud to see their work acknowledged and  to know what influence and encouragement it has given to writers long after they are gone. I am pretty sure they also had an excellent sense of humour and will be smiling at some of the versions. Wish we could confront them and watch  their reactions.

As for new versions of old Fantasy favourites- how can you not love what Terry Pratchett has done to our stereotypical Wizards, Witches, Dwarves, Trolls and so many more. Admittedly he seldom mentions the Fae as they had left Discworld when iron was discovered, but I think he could have given Elves a run for their money in time.

Quote
Elves love nature? Says who? Some do I'm sure. Some don't. People aren't one note.

Elves are slender? Again, says who? Why not have a stocky elf? Or a muscular one? Or god forbid a fat one?

Elves are magical? Maybe some. Maybe others are just peasants who never cast a spell in their lives.

@TBM (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=37428) I am intrigued and like your notions of unelvely Elves.
I will acknowledge my debt if a sudden inspiration sees light of day, but may have to wait for next RPG. ;)
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Lanko on August 07, 2016, 04:39:23 PM
One problem I have with not only elves and dwarfs, but with new races in general is that a lot of authors make everyone in the entire race all think, behave and live in the exact same way. This happens even when they change the race, like elves becoming arrogant bastards obsessed with beauty and purity of race.
Adding insult to injury, they all say how humans are unique, creative, reckless and such.

I think that's another reason the elves and dwarfs (and the other races) in Dragon Age worked so well for me.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Peat on August 07, 2016, 04:48:40 PM
One problem I have with not only elves and dwarfs, but with new races in general is that a lot of authors make everyone in the entire race all think, behave and live in the exact same way. This happens even when they change the race, like elves becoming arrogant bastards obsessed with beauty and purity of race.
Adding insult to injury, they all say how humans are unique, creative, reckless and such.

I think that's another reason the elves and dwarfs (and the other races) in Dragon Age worked so well for me.

The issue with the use of other races as a reflection on a single facet of humanity is one of the reasons I've yet to include any in my own work. I like reading about them but I'm not sure its a tool I care to use.

Well, okay, I do have an idea that riffs very explicitly on the humanity facet reflection thing but I've yet to find a story that fits it/time to develop it.

I think its one of the reasons that Elves and Dwarves are bigger in fantasy games than in fantasy fiction. Gaming seems to find sidestepping that easier for various reasons.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: TBM on August 07, 2016, 05:46:30 PM
I'm always baffled at the ubiquity of elves and dwarves being included together in stories. If these races were varied and not stereotypical or mono-characterized, would there be a need to include both? Doubtful. There could be elf miners with axes, or dwarf druid like people. You can't extend that argument to humans, because humans aren't a fantasy race, thus have known limitations, which one has to adhere to, lest they be superhuman or transhuman instead.

That's why one can't say "Why not just pick humans then?" You don't get to set the limits of a human. Real life does that.

Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: cupiscent on August 08, 2016, 01:59:47 AM
You don't get to set the limits of a human. Real life does that.

You're writing speculative fiction. "Human" can be whatever you want it to be for your story.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: TBM on August 08, 2016, 05:13:03 AM
That's like calling squares, "circles" cos it's speculative. Like calling a dog something different to what people know. What matters is what audiences are willing to believe.

. Simply calling them human still doesn't make them anything but superhuman to the reader if they're clearly beyond human limits.

Have a human breathe in space and I call bull.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: cupiscent on August 08, 2016, 02:06:49 PM
Yes, what matters is what the audience is willing to believe. So it has to be believable. So...

Have a human breathe in space and I call bull.

...have a story where society has progressed to a point where it's possible, useful and even desirable for humans to have their oxygen-spacesuit-breathing-apparatus-whatever cybernetically attached to their lungs, and I call it sci-fi.

The important thing, for my money, is: given [whatever parameters you have around being human in your story], what does it mean to "be human"?

This has taken things quite a bit sideways from the initial discussion, but I think that applies back to the elves-and-dwarves question as well. What do they mean for being human? And what does "being elvish" mean, similarities to and differences from. I mean, one of the more interesting aspects of Tolkien's world, for me, is how the elves look at life and the world versus the shorter-lived humans. There are insights there about perspective and subjectivity.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: TBM on August 08, 2016, 03:03:28 PM
Quote

...have a story where society has progressed to a point where it's possible, useful and even desirable for humans to have their oxygen-spacesuit-breathing-apparatus-whatever cybernetically attached to their lungs, and I call it sci-fi.

You've actually respected the known limits of human beings there by adding cybernetics. I'm talking about writers who don't respect that, who just say my human functions like Superman and is still human cos "it's fantasy, I get to say what human is".  I'm saying to make something human in name only does not make it so.

The point is in arguing for the "humans can be anything you want" that is an argument against fantasy races altogether. Fantasy races would become complexity for the sake of complexity. I actually make this argument with the elves/dwarves/men/orcs. If one wants a disposable race as the opposition that won't get audience sympathy, orcs have their place. If one wishes to explore the human condition ie what if one of us was in this world? We add in humans, in all our varied complexity. If one needs a race that goes beyond human limits, then elves OR dwarves  serve that function. LOTR, Warhammer lore, DnD, countless other games and stories have combined the two and I really question the purpose. Are we writing them to be foils for each other? Than that's exactly what LOTR and all these others stories did. It's ground that's so well trodden. Is it the old cliche of Dwarves have axes and want to mine nature while elves hold that in disdain and lectures the dwarf about how the trees are sacrosanct, while the dwarf calls the elf a feeble sissy? About how their pursuit of riches is selfish/meaningless? Is it the proud dwarf has some ancient grudge with the elves for some past war or slight? We've seen it all before.  The interactions between the two have been so well covered the OP needs to ask what he or she is bringing to the table that's new. 

The way to not be a LOTR knock off is to use what came before if you want, but use the minimum for what you need. Elves for that purpose are pointy ears. That's it. Dwarves? Short stature.  That's the minimum. From there, it's up to the writer. The idea is to be different enough. Enough new elements. It's not to be completely original necessarily.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: The Gem Cutter on August 10, 2016, 05:11:06 AM
Since the discussion has slid to presentations of fantasy races, here's an observation: when authors present a diverse group (humans + elves + dwarves, etc.), they can either spend time exploring the differences between the groups, or the differences between individuals, but not both. This is not so much my idea or belief, but rather a phenomenon that smarter writers seemed to know or learned.

Somewhere I read that Tolkien considered having Glorfindel join the party, but decided against it because he felt that he would be indistinguishable from Legolas within the constraints of the story, and this was unfair, because Glorfindel was a high elf of Noldorin descent, who had seen the Light of Aman with his own eyes, and making him identical to a lowly wood elf was unpalatable. I take this to mean that he felt that unless he burdened the story to highlight those differences, they would disappear to some extent (maybe total?).

I think this is the result of the pressures of the narrative to progress the plot, show nuances of the protagonist, convey setting and mood, and all the other things the narrative flow has to support. These pressures leave insufficient bandwidth to support highlighting nuances between members of each group, if the author is also highlighting differences between the groups as a whole. So either it's "dwarves are this way, elves are that way", or its "This dwarf is X, that dwarf is Y."

And yes, there are plenty of moments in LOTR and other works that do both, but the overall trend is to have many more of one than another, with very unequal emphasis.

I think this is crucial because many times in fantasy fiction, there is a temptation to put in X and spend time on it (in this case, the nuances of individuals in a distinct group) at the expense of the story. Sometimes it's other things, like the fictitious languages or the 18,000 year backstory, or whatever. I think Tolkien was wise to avoid this practice, knowing that readers read the story for the story's sake, and anything that takes away from that undermines the work.

Interestingly, one of fan fiction's chief merits (imho) is that it is permissible to explore these nuances as the central premise, i.e., make X the whole point.

My point is that it seems we have a choice - to invest narrative space to highlight differences between races, which worked very well for Tolkien (Gimli vs. Legolas, Elves vs. Men, etc.), or to explore the differences between individuals ... but not both at the same time, and/or not to the same depth, even when the narrative is as vast as LOTR.

In Tolkien's case, there are clear differences between some individuals (Galadriel vs. Celeborn), but they are not explored to much depth, with the exception of Men (Aragorn vs. Boromir, Faramir vs. Boromir, Gandalf & Théoden vs. Denethor, Grima vs. Eomer & Hama). (Yeah, I know Gandalf isn't a man, but within the narrative, he's looked at as an old man).

Food for thought.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Eclipse on August 10, 2016, 06:32:00 AM
Just as a reader I think its great you want to put a new spin on dwarves for example but sometimes I just want to read the traditional grumpy dwarf who hides a heart of gold stereotypical dwarf , Flint from Dragonlance was one of my favourite characters to read.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Ryan Mueller on August 12, 2016, 05:59:59 AM
I don't think you'll have much luck publishing it traditionally, but there is a niche market for Tolkienesque fantasy in the self-publishing world.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Peat on August 12, 2016, 11:22:38 AM
Oddly enough I was thinking the same thing as Gem Cutter the other day (after this thread started making me want to write Tolkien/D&D-esque fantasy). There's only so many room in the pages. So its nice to know I was thinking along the right lines.

Doubtless if Tolkien was writing today, editors would have encouraged him to inflate the word count up enough that he could have included those things.
Title: Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
Post by: Asinus1223 on August 17, 2016, 11:42:04 PM
Just for fun, I should reveal my races:

The Five Elder Races are collectively called rhen, as opposed to humans who come on the scene later and are called the Guests, or uncharitably, the uninvited.

Elves I call ellhen.  They are vegetation elementals and live nearly forever, and as such have a hard time adapting.  They don't reproduce much, and don't fit well into human society.  As they have lost their place in Nature as well, they are truly a sad race.  Men call them "greenies" when they're being nasty, and "green elves" when they are being polite.  A female ellh is an ellhina.

Dwarves are dwarrhen.  They can sense things about rocks and soil that make them natural engineers.  They are much more adaptable than the elves, are sexually egalitarian and have open marriages.  The racial slur for them is "stonies", although politely they are known as "deep elves".  A female dwarrh is a dwarrhina.

Selkies are, of course merrhen.  Sea-elves are aquatic and non-sentient for the first forty years of their lives, which is followed by a hundred or so years of amphibious but mostly land- (actually island) based living.  After finishing the terrestrial part of their lives, a favored few among them become great cetacean/nautiloid entities who assist the Sea god with his responsibilities.  Merrhinas are the female and they are vulgarly referred to as
"blueys".

Pyrrhen or ifreets are known as fire-elves politely or smokeys perjoratively.  They are highly patriarchal and polygamous, dominant males acquiring harems of pyrrhinas.  Surplus males are always a problem, causing conflict anywhere fire-elves and humans mix.   In addition, pyrrhinas do not care for the current sexual constitution.  They are notoriously unfaithful, preferring to have their own human male to sharing one of their own males, even though this does not result in offspring.

Orcs, or orrhen, have been separated from their fellow rhen for millennia.   Since they are eusocial (think ants, bees, or mole-rats), their society is very stable and prosperous.  They know nothing of humans.  Each breeding Queen has a stable of male consorts and is responsible both for governance and population maintenance.  Since orrhen have no contact with the other races, they are not called anything in particular, although the ellhish lorebooks refer to them as "wild elves".  Over the centuries they have lost their warlike ways and have become highly cultured.  Since most orrhen are non-fertile females, the word orrh is a feminine word.  Orrakh is the term for a male orc.