marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,

The Lord of the Rings and alternate history

For some reason, I have more than once run across people pondering what sort of reaction The Lord of the Rings would get if it were published today.  Which question exceeds my ability to imagine things.

The problem is that The Lord of the Rings casts such an enormous shadow over the field of fantasy.  There are times when it's hard to remember that he had predecessors, or imagine what life was like for them.  Andre Norton's Witch World was originally published with a SF cover talking about it's being on a planet so far away that the very laws of nature have changed, which leads to the question of whether there would be a fantasy genre for it to be published in if it were published today rather than then.

Suppose there was such a genre.  What would it regard as the greats?  There need not be an encompassing work like it, but if Conan the Barbarian, and Lord Dunsany's gem-like if distant works, or anything else were the greats, they would influence what books came out.  Perhaps The Lord of the Rings would be regarded as a refreshing change from moral nihilism, or elegant, exalted, distant characters, or a mad hodge-podge of incoherent events and world-building.  Who can tell?

If, of course, a work somehow just like The Lord of the Rings were published today, and it had been published on time, it would get stigmatized as derivative.  That's inescapable, and so not interesting.  0:)

Tags: genre, genre: alternate history, genre: fantasy

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