WBH Weekly Digest 2023-06-30: The Fantasy Canon

WBH Weekly Digest 2023-06-30: The Fantasy Canon

I'm back from a work trip, a family wedding, and a family vacation. On with the posting!

A thread about the long history of Conan as a character, and the various reasons for his complicated publishing history.

Spider-Man Has Lost His Place - Front Porch Republic
Spider-Man now devalues human-scale kindness and decency by questing in the multiverse, and ideological rigidity and swift judgment have replaced his former nuance and virtue-seeking.

An argument that getting folded into the MCU has shifted Spider-Man away from its distinctive strengths and stories.

Reading the Avon Fantasy Reader — Issue 1: What Defines a Classic? – Black Gate
Over its 18 volumes, the Avon Fantasy Reader put forth works by authors like Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, A. Merritt, and other foundational writers of early 20th century fantasy fiction. While the magazine did feature contemporary tales in several of its issues, the bulk of its content focused on already “classic” (or at least well-loved by Wollheim) tales from the previous four decades of fantasy (and sometimes even earlier).
Their resurrection here along with the archival work being done in Mary Gnaedinger’s Famous Fantastic Mysteries (1939–1953), Fantastic Novels (1940–1951), and A. Merritt’s Fantasy Magazine (1949–1950) and by other pulp editors in “classic story” features of various magazines of the time, started to establish a sort of “fantasy canon” that held steady for decades, in many cases to the present day.

On Writing as a Fantasist » John C. Wright’s Journal
Cynthia asked what the earmarks are of a mainstream story, and Gunn responded by saying that its “distinguishing characteristic is that it has no distinguishing genre characteristic.”
This is of course what my professors taught me in English Lit 101. And it is somewhat true. The Western genre is defined by its setting. The Romance and Mystery genres are defined by the types of conflict the tales will deal with. Speculative fiction may be defined by the fact that we as authors and fans typically agree that nothing like the story that we tell has ever happened—though one could well argue that speculative fiction isn’t a “genre” in the classical sense anyway.
But I contend that over the past 120 years, and particularly in the last 20 years, the literary mainstream has evolved into a genre with its own earmarks. It is just as rigid in its strictures and just as narrow in its accepted treatment of characters, conflicts and themes as any other genre.
The postmodern literary establishment grew out of the philosophies of William Dean Howells (1837-1920), the “Father of Modern Realism,” who was an editor for The Atlantic Monthly from 1866-1876.

A thread of scenes from the Lord of the Rings illustrated in a Japanese traditional style.

Friend of the blog Ktistec Press will be releasing R. A. Lafferty's unpublished In a Green Tree this summer. Stay posted for more information.

Dorothy Sayers and Classical Education
Local circumstances inspired me to spend some time lately going back to the sources on Classical Education. In particular, I’ve been re-rea…

There is a small educational movement based on a short essay of Dorothy Sayers titled "The Lost Tools of Learning". Darwin at Darwin Catholic takes a look at the essay in this blog.

Dorothy Sayers on Education — With Both Hands
Dorothy Sayers wrote a brief essay on education in 1947, the Lost Tools of Learning . I have observed that her ideas are about as welcome as Charles Murray’s , but for a different reason. In Real Education , Murray rightly criticizes the idea that schooling was better in America in the late XIXth

I wrote about the same essay in 2009.

Tips On How To Write Believably From An Outlandish Fantasist
Tim Powers has written some of the most far-fetched plotlines in the history of fantasy and he’s done it believably. If you want to swing a bat with greater ability, you can put donuts on it, or swing several bats together. If you want to hone your ability to write believably, [...]

Jerry Bowyer interviewed Tim Powers in 2016 about his distinctive style and influences.

Here There Be Giants - The Whole Counsel Blog
In recent times, the rediscovery of the original ancient context of Genesis 6:1-4 has led to a fascination with the subject of the ‘Nephilim’, who are here said to be produced through sexual immorality involving angelic beings and human women. In some quarters, this has been developed into full-fle…

Friend of the blog Aaron Irber pointed me to this post on the Nephilim, giants mentioned in the bible that have been frequently used as inspiration by writers of mythic fiction.

Not Far from Eden by J. Manfred Weichsel — With Both Hands
J. Manfred Weichsel has returned with another unbelievable, ridiculous, and over the top satire, Not Far From Eden [Amazon link]. Some of Weichsel’s work, like Jungle Jitters , takes its inspiration from contemporary events. For this book, Weichsel reached back to the Book of Enoch, a bit of

For example, Jon Weichsel used the Book of Enoch as inspiration for Not Far From Eden.

Hide Me Among the Graves — With Both Hands
by Tim Powers 528 pages; $25.99 I was absolutely thrilled to receive a review copy of the newest book by one of my favorite authors. I probably squealed with glee! I have been a fan of Tim Powers’ ever since I picked up a copy of Dinner at Deviant’s Palace about 6 years ago at my local library

Tim Powers has used the Nephilim in The Stress of Her Regard and its sequel Hide me Among the Graves, as well as in Declare.