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Author Topic: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?  (Read 5696 times)

Offline Asinus1223

Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« 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

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Online Peat

Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #1 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.

Offline cupiscent

Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #2 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.

Offline zmunkz

Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #3 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.
"People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do." --Isaac Asimov

Offline Russ

Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #4 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.

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #5 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 clich├ęs, 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
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"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Online Peat

Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #6 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.
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Offline Venandiaer

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Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #7 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?

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #8 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.
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Online Peat

Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #9 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.

Offline Raptori

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Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #10 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.
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #11 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.
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline Elfy

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Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #12 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

Offline cupiscent

Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #13 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

Offline Lanko

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Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« Reply #14 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.
Slow and steady wins the race.

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