July 10th, 2007

wood cat

Readercon: The Case for Archetypal Evil in Fantasy

Immediately after the "Inner Landscape" panel, so it had the same sound problems, though less so—I think the panelists were better about their mikes, or I was more used to it.

The Case for Archetypal Evil in Fantasy.
Ellen Asher, S. C. Butler, Jeanne Cavelos, James Morrow (L), Joshua Palmatier.
The pervasive trend in modern fantasy is to give the bad guys moral complexity and psychological depth-good reasons to be bad. This approach stands in stark contrast to the legions of past Dark Lords who were utterly evil because, well, they were utterly evil. Tolkien, however, wrote pages of philosophy on the nature of Melkor / Morgoth (published in Morgoth's Ring), suggesting that our rejection of the old model was a reaction only to badly done Dark Lords. Is there an argument for making things at least somewhat black and white (how much psychological depth does a human sociopath have, anyway)?

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wood cat

Readercon: See it Like Saruman: Reconciling Fantasy and Progress

I found this one stimulating, especially for a Sunday morning. And now I'm done (granted, by doing even more minimal editing on my typewritten notes than usual, but still.).

Description:

See it Like Saruman: Reconciling Fantasy and Progress.
Judith Berman, John Crowley, Ken Houghton (L), James Morrow, Michael Swanwick.
History is written by the winners. That explains why Tolkien never mentions that the destruction of Fangorn Forest and other efforts towards industrialization by Saruman significantly raised the standard of living for the wild men of Dunland, in fact creating (for the first time in Middle Earth) a comfortable middle class. While there is a natural opposition between the romantic and pastoral ideal embodied in traditional fantasy and the Enlightenment ideal of progress (especially in its modern industrial and technological modes), we don't believe they are completely incompatible. What works of fantasy have attempted to accommodate both? What interesting new direction might the heroic fantasy novel be taken if the true positive effects of modernization were acknowledged? Readercon hopes to put the audio recording of this panel online at some point after the convention.

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