Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Other Fantasy

For a lot of people, "fantasy" literature means Tolkien, and his many followers.  This is what is often called "epic" or "high" fantasy.  Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, Peter Orullian, Stephen R. Donaldson, Steven Erikson, etc., all write high fantasy.

From the birth of fantasy literature in the early twentieth century, there has been another fantasy, sometimes called "low" fantasy (of which "sword and sorcery" stories are probably a subset, heavy on action, flashy magic and romance).  Its characters aren't knights and wizards battling to save the world from ancient evils... they're thugs, thieves and drifters, trying to stay alive.

Most of Robert E. Howard's original Conan stories are low fantasy -- Conan is a thief or a mercenary or a pirate.

Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser tales are classic, excellent low fantasy.

As a kid, I loved the Thieves' World anthologies and Robert Asprin's myth books -- both low fantasy.

I just finished reading Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora.  It's a fine first novel, an entertaining caper story, and an example of low fantasy.  Its protagonist is a thief and a scoundrel, and (at least until quite late) he has scurrilous goals -- robbery and revenge, mostly.  It's good to know that low fantasy is alive and well.

No comments:

Post a Comment