I heard somewhere that Tolkien is to epic fantasy what Jimi Hendrix is to rock music. Now, I love rock music and I call myself a Hendrix fan.
I like fantasy but strangely enough, I am not that into Tolkien.
It might be me.
Seriously, I can be at fault here.
Epic Fantasy (also known as High Fantasy) has become commercially successful. It is recycled endlessly; movies, TV-series, novels, games. You cannot escape it.
Ultimately, you cannot escape Tolkien.
Tolkien did not invent elves, goblins and dwarves. However, his vision of them has almost replaced their origin.
It has also left a curse behind. The curse of staying true to the traditions of epic fantasy, unwilling to bring something new to it.
Why does nobody accuse Tolkien of stealing material?
Not that I want to go into a discussion on Originality.
I am just saying.
At the same time, modern fantasy (after Tolkien) and its complexities and moral ambivalence has more in common with the grittier and darker fantasy genre (Low Fantasy) than that of Tolkien. He is much more a ‘black and white – and nothing in between’ type.
He is also a bit of a prude.
Modern fantasy is therefore more in the traditions of the pulpy weird fantasy from the US, beginning in the 1920s and 30s with its amorality, nudity, violence and gore. I.e. novelists such as Robert E. Howard (Conan the Barbarian) and Fritz Leiber (Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser) at the front.
Where am I at fault?
Is it a highbrow issue? I usually go for the underdog.
Is it a popular notion? I like what I like. Going against the flow as a default setting.
Does it simply come down to what I like?
In that case, I like my fantasy personal, dark, dirty and naked.