or: The Problem with Setting the Bar so High
or OR: Why Suzy Can’t Write High Fantasy
Let’s be honest with ourselves: Tolkien was a mad, crazy writing beast. If you look at his bibliography, you can see for yourself. The man created a wonderful world that fantasy writers still like to romp around in and/or shamelessly rip off. He even created his own damn language(s) to go along with his world. Sometimes its hard to NOT rip off Tolkien.
For a fantasy writer just starting out, it’s also hard to live up to that.
Look at it this way: its like your granddad is the first man in space, but also: took the first steps on the moon; designed the rocket to take it up; perfected the launch system; and wrote the computer codes that NASA still uses today. Then you come along, trying to do your own thing, and everyone’s like, “Oh your dad did it first. And he was awesome at it.”
“Well f*ck me sideways!” I would scream back. “Good thing I’m DOING SOMETHING TOTALLY DIFFERENT!”
But it doesn’t help, because there’s always that stigma in the back of your mind. Your granddad started something that influenced generations of
astronauts writers before you. So, what’s a kid in their dad’s shadow to do?
Well, not a whole lot really. You kinda have to suck it up and take it. Or you say “F*ck it!” and find a new profession to get into, cause who wants to live in their granddad’s shadow? NOT ME!
Well, let’s fall back on the old military/NASA saying: “Failure is not an option.” You have to keep writing.
“But my story has elves!” you whine. “Tolkien and every other high fantasy writer has elves!”
Yeah, along with dwarves, orcs, and talking trees. So does World of Warcraft. Wanna know how they got around it?
They also “borrowed”.
Yeah, I said it. World of Warcraft and every other high fantasy writer “borrows” from Tolkien. Its hard not too. If it bothers you, then you need to find either (a) a new world to write in or (b) a new measuring stick for your genre.
I’ve discovered that I can’t write high fantasy, or at least not pure high fantasy. I’m inspired by Star Wars, Star Trek, and Voltron just as much as I’m inspired by Beowulf, Tolkien, and Terry Brooks.
I’m a hybrid kind of girl. I like my elves to be blue, come from space, carry blasters, and be conquerors. I like my humans to be spunk, my worlds to be populated my semi-mythical creatures, and my planets to ooze with mysterious powers. I want my characters to be rebels against the impossible odds they can slowly chip away at.
Tolkien drew from his surroundings; his stories are deeply entrenched in mythological origins, with some combination of real life inspiration. I draw from a mixture of sci-fi & fantasy, plus things that I’ve learned in college. In away, Tolkien and I aren’t far apart, but within the spectrum of writing, we’re probably total opposites.
So, I can’t write high fantasy because I feel I’ll be judged based on a man who died in 1973 and was recently published in 2009. I’ll get a new yard stick to measure myself with, thank you.