Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Anderson, Heinlein, Asimov And Tolkien

Poul Anderson goes further than Robert Heinlein, is better than Isaac Asimov and is comparable to JRR Tolkien. Tolkien alone invested an entire literary career in creating a single fictional universe. It follows that the History of Middle Earth is conceived and executed on a much vaster scale than anything else, even including Poul Anderson's History of Technic Civilization or Poul and Karen Anderson's King of Ys Tetralogy.

A single novel like Poul Anderson's War Of The Gods was written comparatively quickly although not hastily. Anderson was able to produce quantities of quality. The volume of his output does not negate either its depth or its substance.

Although I like to trace chronological and conceptual links between Anderson's many works, they do not add up to a single sequence on the model of Tolkien's. Nevertheless, they do add up to something massive. Tolkien fans should check out at least Anderson's heroic fantasies.

When Harald Hardrada tries to sail to Jotunheim, it is as if he is seeking Tolkien's straight route beyond the horizon.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

A major reason for why Tolkien's pub. literary output was relatively small was due to his passion for perfection. He was constantly correcting and revising his work, which necessarily SLOWED down and COMPLETING any work. Much to the despair of his publishers.

And as Tolkien said in some of his letters, he did like to read science fiction and even tried his hand at writing SF in THE NOTION CLUB PAPERS. Alas, it was a failure, his natural forte as a writer was in writing fantasies.

I think it's safe to say Tolkien must have read some of the works of Poul Anderson, even tho he made no mention of him in his known, pub. letters. The collected LETTERS OF JRR TOLKIEN makes mention of Forrest Ackerman, Isaac Asimov, and Gene Wolfe, so Tolkien did know of such SF personalities.

I certainly agree with you about the vastness and sheer detail of Tolkien's Middle Earth mythos. You mentioned Anderson's Technic Civilization series, if I had any criticisms to make of it, I would say I wished Anderson had given us some more background details, or information about various characters (such as Leon Ammon).

I agree about wishing more of Tolkien's fans would check out some of Anderson's works, at least his fantasies. Such as HROLF KRAKI'S SAGA, THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS, the OPERATION books, A MIDSUMMER TEMPEST, etc.


Sean M. Brooks said...

I should have added some comments about Tolkien's posthumously published THE CHILDREN OF HURIN. Some critics have complained THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS presented too sunny a view of the world, that Tolkien allegedly showed evil being defeated too easily. I disagree and could argue from HOBBIT and LOTR why such critics were wrong.

But I wanted to focus more on THE CHILDREN OF HURIN. Anyone who reads this fierce, grim, dark book would be disabused of the notion Tolkien was too superficial about good and evil. Here we see elves, men, and dwarves showing us how flawed and imperfect they could be. Here we see the first Dark Lord, Morgoth, as a serious, menacing, and active character in his own right. And we don't get "cliched" happy endings in this book.

Some readers and critics have also wondered how much of THE SILMARILLION was actually written by Tolkien and how much was inserted by his son Christopher as editor. For THE CHILDREN OF HURIN, Christopher Tolkien took pains to declare that he altered the text as minimally as possible, adding one "bridge" paragraph indented from the main text and making only minor corrections elsewhere.