Czy fantasy to literatura?

W cyklu “wyszperane” link do wideo – krótka rozmowa Neila Gaimana i Kazuo Ishiguro. Istnieje duże prawdopodobieństwo, że kojarzycie tylko jedno z tych nazwisk. Które? Odpowiedź na to pytanie szufladkuje Was, jako wielbicieli literatury gatunkowej albo “literatury literackiej” (“literary fiction”), lub, jak powiedziałby przeciętny snob, “literatury prawdziwej”.

W języku polskim istnieje pojęcie literatury pięknej, które nie najlepiej pokrywa się z dyskutowanym tu tematem, wg Wikipedii i szkolnych słowników z mojej półki oznaczając głównie przeciwieństwo literatury faktu. Prawdopodobnie dla tego, że w czasach, kiedy ktokolwiek się jeszcze rozróżnieniami literaturoznawców przejmował, nikomu nie przychodziło do głowy, żeby się fantastyką i s/f zająć na poważnie, a nawet kryminały pisywano po cichu, pod pseudonimem (Joe Alex). Literatura gatunkowa, jeszcze bardziej niż na rynku anglojęzycznym, to książki czytane masowo przez publiczność nie zwracającą uwagi na dyskusje specjalistów o arcydziełach wydawanych w nakładach tysiąca egzemplarzy 😉

Wracając jednak do pretekstu do dzisiejszego postu – tutaj wideo, a tutaj dyskusja na r/fantasy.

Dwa smakowite cytaty:

You are Neil Gaiman. You don’t write comics, you write graphic novels” – zdanie wypowiedziane przez pewnego krytyka literackiego, który próbował pogodzić swoją (zrozumiałą! Komiksy Gaimana są świetne! i niewątpliwie są wyrafinowanym dziełem sztuki) fascynację „Sandmanem” ze swoim poczuciem wyższości wobec czytelników „zwykłych komiksów”. „Powieści graficzne” są taką próbą stworzenia kategorii „lepszych” komiksów, które można czytać bez uszczerbku na honorze.

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You write one bloody dragon and they call you a fantasy writer” Terry Pratchett

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Brandon Sanderson, Mistborn Trilogy (2006–2008)

sanderson-mistborntrilogyuk4The first book set in the Mistborn world, Mistborn: The Final Empire was the second published work by Brandon Sanderson. Yeah, Sanderson, the guy that now tells us from the covers of various fantasy novels whether it’s worth reading them. The same guy who finally managed to finish the never-ending Jordan’s series The Wheel of Time. A very popular and influential author who now has his own creative writing school.

It should tell you something about Sanderson’s style, that when appointed to conclude Jordan’s series in one book, he wrote THREE instead.

I’ve read his Mistborn trilogy soon after the last installment was published. Sanderson hasn’t become such a head honcho in fantasy then – he still had yet to write the Wheel of Time novels, and the days of topping the bestseller lists and making Laws In Fantasy were still ahead of him. In short – it was a long time ago.

So why do I bring him up? For all the aforementioned reasons: he has become one of the most popular and influential fantasy writers, he’s close to becoming an institution, and he writes more and more novels. And last but not least – after reading the Mistborn trilogy I haven’t touched a single book written by Brandon Sanderson. And I’m not planning to.

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T.H. White, The Once and Future King (1938-58)

Have you seen „The Sword in the Stone”? Nice Disney classic, „not much plot but great for little kids.” as an imdb reviewer noticed. I concur. It’s a nice watch, it’s deeper than most Disney movies even. But it’s just 10% of shiny stuff taken from the top of the novel that inspired it – the first part of “The Once and Future King” tetralogy by Terence Hanbury White.

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A tetralogy consist of “The Sword in the Stone”, “The Queen of Air and Darkness”, “The Ill-Made Kinght” and “The Candle in the Wind”. There is also “The Book of Merlyn”, published posthumously, book that I prefer to pretend do not exist. They tell the story of king Arthur, from childhood to (spoiler alert) hist death in battle with Mordred.

The book is not for kids. There is humour and songs, just as in animated version, but it’s also slow paced, written in very demanding language and very long. I wouldn’t recommend it as a first encounter with Arturian fantasy. Start with some basic one-volume version of the story, see a movie or two, follow up with “The Winter King” by Cornwell, if you like history novels with warlords and battles, or “The Mists of Avalon”, if you are into feminist deconstruction of history and literature. But White’s retelling of the legend is the pinnacle of Arthurian fantasy. Readers already familiar with the story can fully appreciate this particular interpretation. It’s more than a very good fantasy book. It’s genuine Literary Fiction 😉

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Raymond Feist, Janny Wurts, Empire Trilogy (1987–1992)

Feist_Wurts_EmpireRaymond Feist is a fantasy author best known for his Riftwar saga – an epic fantasy cycle telling the story of a war between two worlds. The saga is set on Midkemia – a world very much like medieval Europe, or, to be more precise, like Tolkien’s Middle-earth. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Midkemia is a brutal rip-off of Tolkien’s world, but Middle-earth is definitely a very strong inspiration for Feist. The world of Midkemia is basically feudal Europe, with plenty of castles, keeps, villages and cities, but most of all full of forests and roads – long and winding – leading through them. It’s populated mainly by people, sure, but also by dwarves and elves, trolls and goblins, dragons and magicians.

My first encounter with Feist was, paradoxically, not through any installment in the original Riftwar saga (starting with a classic Magician), but with a spin-off of sorts, a trilogy set on the other side of the magical rift – on the world of Kelewan. The Empire Trilogy, as it’s called, was the effect of collaboration between two writers: Raymond Feist and Janny Wurts. Wurts is a fantasy artist (she makes covers for her own books) and a writer in her own right, albeit much less popular than Feist – the Empire Trilogy remains her most popular work to date.

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Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Avengers, re-assemble!

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Piotrek: Marvel cinematic universe. Wow. Czasem lepiej, czasem gorzej, z reguły – świetnie, jako przedsięwzięcie nie ma precedensu. Rozpisany na ponad dekadę zestaw powiązanych ze sobą filmów, seriali, komiksów… Niektóre filmy lubię bardziej, inne mniej, seriale mają swoje lepsze i gorsze momenty (nie przegapcie A.K.A. Jessica Jones, jeszcze w tym roku w Netflix!), ale jako całość – czapki z głów. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” oceniam w tym kontekście. Film sam w sobie nie byłby raczej zrozumiały dla widzów nie zaznajomionych z częścią przynajmniej poprzedników. Ma swoje mocne i słabe strony, ale sprawdza się jako część większej całości. Hmm, a kiedyś byłem przekonany, że całość nie może być większa od sumy swoich części…

Ola: Ostatnia odsłona Marvelowskiej Phase Two, która miała być jednocześnie jej ukoronowaniem. Czy jest? Tu chyba nikt nie ma wątpliwości – były już lepsze filmy. I to nie tylko w Phase One, jak choćby pierwsi Avengers, ale i w Phase Two (przynajmniej dwa). Age of Ultron pozostaje jednak rozrywką na wysokim poziomie, mimo że intelektualnie obniża loty, zawodząc oczekiwania wywindowane filmem Captain America: The Winter Soldier.


W Age of Ultron wracają wszyscy ulubieńcy znani nam z poprzednich części: Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Hawkeye i Czarna Wdowa, a nawet Nick Fury. Pojawiają się też nowe postacie, zwiastujące stopniowe łączenie się uniwersów Avengersów i X-Men, co zresztą mogliśmy obserwować już w tym sezonie Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Przedstawicieli mutantów, zwanych w AofU “enhanced”, jest w filmie dwoje: to bliźnięta Quicksilver i Scarlet Witch.
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David Gemmell, Legend (1984)

GemmellHere we have another fantasy legend, one of the supposed milestones of heroic fantasy, years and years before Martin, Abercrombie or even Erickson. There’s even a set of popular British fantasy literary awards called after late David Gemmell: Legend Award for year’s best fantasy novel (looks like Druss’ ax, Snaga, what a surprise ;)), Morningstar Award (hmm, let me think, it does look like a crystal star, not the weapon) for year’s best fantasy debut, and Ravenheart Award for year’s best fantasy cover art (depicting Druss on the battlements of Dros Delnoch). All of them can be viewed here. Each year a set of books is put to a democratic vote of readers (yes, you can vote too! Do it here).

But what about the book? It’s the first and most-known novel of Gemmell’s. It’s also the first installment in the Drenai Saga, and the first book depicting Druss the Legend. As usual with firsts, it is rather uneven. After a slow beginning come some really good moments, and the ending… But let’s save the ending for, you know, the end.

The story is simple, simplistic even. Everything revolves around a war. An old-fashioned, Middle Ages type of conflict, fought with swords and axes and javelins, with lances and bows, with fire and stone. And, to a smaller extent – with magic. This particular war was started by the Nadir – powerful, aggressive and ferociously savage coalition of tribes led by a ruthless and ingenious leader, Ulric. Ulric united the steppe tribes in order to finish the bloody infighting, plaguing the tribes for decades or centuries. But while doing this, he created a monstrous, unstoppable force looking forward to conquering other nations – because war was everything the Nadir tribes ever knew. At the time of the story they already have conquered many nations and are coming to Drenai sure of their skill and looking for another fight. The only thing standing between bountiful, rich fields and cities full of treasures is an old, forgotten castle called Dros Delnoch. Once upon a time Dros Delnoch was a fortress, but that was a really long time ago, before people settled in and a whole city sprang between its multiple walls. Now it’s indefensible, with a laughable contingent of demoralized soldiers that is too small to hold for even a few days.

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A few thoughts on poetry in fantasy.

It’s mu turn and I really wanted it to be a review. But I couldn’t, yet again, finish my review of “Fatale” graphic novel series, and I’ve found something I want to share. So today’s post goes into the “wyszperane” (“found in the net”) category. My source is, as usuall, /r/Fantasy, where Mark Lawrence’s “When the language flexes its muscles” was recommended (with entry entitled “Get your stinkin’ poetry out of my fantasy book!” 😉 ). The initial purpose of this category of posts was not to write big texts, but rather link interesting and thought-provoking essays, add a short commentary and maybe initiate discussion in the „comment” section.

First – I generally agree with the author. Two important quotes:

„A lot of people say they hate poetry. That’s fair enough – the school system bears a considerable responsibility for that.” – amen to that, it almost killed my interest in poetry.

And:

„Poetry is a distillation, the highest concentration of linguistic content, and like all strong flavours it won’t be for everyone at every stage in their life.”

I’ve read and enjoyed my share of simple, action-oriented novels, where language was almost reduced to its utilitarian function. But literature is more than a description of a sequence of events and the beauty of a fantasy/sf masterwork is in its language as well as its plot or characters.

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