Quatermass wrote:But I fully disagree that we cannot compare other works to Tolkien. Tolkien, by dint of being the Trope Codifier, has become a yardstick. Comparisons are not only inevitable, but in fact, in many cases, are necessary.
Hmmm - afraid I don't do Tropes really so I'll not get too hyper over that.
It's a yardstick that really can only be compared on a level playing field with its own contemporaries and work that went before it because of the contextual factors and by that I mean the 'zeitgeist' of its niche era that include language and social standards?
Take Dickens (not a fan but undoubtedly a great and prolific author). So a similarly successful 'niche' author to him would be Trollope perhaps? Or a similar earlier novelist would be Henry Fielding (Tom Jones) whom Dickens greatly admired. There's enough in common with those 3 even though they're not entirely contemporary because they all wrote successfully in their lifetimes and they all made social commentary in their books that are gradually becoming more and more divorced from the modern world. Does that make better sense?
OK - now apply the argument to a modern author who writes along those lines and I'm not going to be picky about this aside from them having to be successful and prolific and maybe slightly satirical. So the 3 contenders are Harold Robbins, Stephen King and Tom Sharpe (not quite so prolific, but very
satirical). How do they compare to Dickens? Hard isn't it!
The yardstick precept I grant you willingly, but the rest is much less cut and dried to apply because Tolkien's out there as a model and someone like Pterry will take facets of Middle Earth and re-work them in a totally different manner, because of all the feeders that he's factored into his own highly esoteric world that is a masterpiece of creation in it's own right. The Game of Thrones universe had fairly broad similarities to Middle Earth, but it doesn't fall too far away from the apple tree in terms of traditional features like dragons as an obvious for instance. Instead it approaches from a more grittily 'real' side of things that's owes far more to modern times than Tolkien's did to his (in that it's more connected to mythological roots) and making an obvious analogy with GoT's political environment evokes the less altruistic military atrocities and mores of Vietnam, or Cambodia, or Somalia say, in fixing its evil colours to the mast.
One last comparison to illustrate the difference between comparative yardsticking and something more like derivative or associative comparison? The Belgariad is my chosen patsy. Now I actually do like David (and Leigh) Eddings and both the Belgariad and the Mallorean series, but boy is that universe a lightweight in the fantasy stakes!
They work as fantasy without really being at all original conceptually by dint of the charm of the writing - mainly the dialogue which is engaging and often very funny, rather than being that iconic or ground-breaking in terms of world-building. So if Tolkien is Bram Stoker's Dracula then Eddings is Josh Whedon's Buffy?
I guess I'm approaching it by how much an author will 'piggyback' perhaps? Or whether they use a step ladder or some more unique way to climb up onto the shoulder of their Giant?
There are different ways to do it but some of them don't try too hard and that's why they don't measure up to the yardstick too well.
I think George Martin is a yardstick in the making perhaps.
Pterry has probably made it to yardstick status already because his edifice, whilst nodding a fair bit to Tolkien as a source, is entirely different in approach and concept whilst still having a broad appeal which is down to his own niche era's philosophical and social issues and how they play out in the stories. He's the Modern to Tolkien's Ancient perhaps?