Monday 30 May 2011

If there's a scene like this in the upcoming film, we can forget all about Arnold.

Let's look at the most famous scenes in Conan the Barbarian.

Much as I like those scenes in their original contexts, they're not Robert E. Howard's Conan. The next video is closer to Howard's Conan than every alleged "Conan" film, television show or cartoon to date combined. If Momoa's Conan is given a scene like this performance in "Game of Thrones," then I think the ghost of Arnold may be dispelled at last.

"And to my son, the stallion who will mount the world, I will also pledge a gift. I will give him the iron chair that his mother's father sat upon. I will give him seven kingdoms. I, Drogo, will do this. I will take my Khalasar west to where the world ends, and ride wooden horses across the black salt water, as no Khal has done before. I will kill the men in iron suits and tear down their stone houses. I will rape their women, take their children as slaves, and bring their broken gods back to Vaes Dothrak. This, I vow, I, Drogo, son of Bharbo. I swear before the Mother of Mountains, as the stars look down in witness.

As the stars look down in witness."

Sunday 29 May 2011

Don't leave me hanging, bro!

Allow me to jump into Conan week late.
It’s now Saturday morning in the UK and this fits perfectly. I was going to write a post explaining that I have serious problems with Robert E. Howards’ Conan stories and with most subsequent sword and sorcery stories that were inspired by it. I was also going to mention that they’re all a bit crap. 

Whoa-ho-ho-ho-hooo. This oughta be interesting.

*Cracks knuckles, poises fingers on keyboard, prepares to read about these serious problems and allegations of partial craptitude*

Instead you are getting this.

... Aww. Well, alright, what're we getting?

Conan the Adventurer is how I first discovered the character of Conan. It aired on the BBC after school and I was probably eight. Unlike homework it didn’t bore me and unlike Australian children’s TV didn’t agitate my childhood fear of clowns. You can go on about the two Arnold Schwarzenegger films and the riddle of steel and camel punching, but this is better.
Yes this is also terrible. It’s just a better league of terrible.

Dude, come on.  I feel so played.

This chap, Will Ellwood, got my hackles up for nothing.  Here I was, fingers poised on the keyboard, eager for a chance for me to debate.  Debate is good.  If he had honest, understandable problems with the Conan stories that I'd have to work to address, that'd be great: it'd force me to really assess the Conan stories, and maybe discover something I hadn't noticed before.  If he came up with a bunch of garbage about how Conan always got the girl, always beat the wizard, always got the treasure and so on, then I could be further inspired to finish those entires in the Beginner's Guide refuting those silly myths.  But no, Will does the old bait-and-switch and goes for the easy target of Conan the Adventurer.  Oh, you cad, Mr Ellwood.

I don't begrudge people having different tastes. I just don't think you can leave people hanging on proclamations on what you were going to write, make pretty strong statements about "serious problems," and then not follow up on them. Bit of a tease, is all.

Saturday 28 May 2011

Legolas IS in The Hobbit, to the surprise of absolutely everyone for some unfathomable reason

I just had to comment on this.

Ten years ago, Orlando Bloom created an iconic character with his portrayal of Legolas. I’m excited to announce today that we’ll be revisiting Middle Earth with him once more. I’m thrilled to be working with Orlando again. Funny thing is, I look older—and he doesn’t! I guess that’s why he makes such a wonderful elf.

And of course, the news sites act as if this is some impossible-to-foresee event, that Tolkien purists will only now be outraged.  As if Tolkien fans were fine with everything up to this point.

Only now.

Again, this is from the people who:

 - Added entire sequences from whole cloth
 - Rendered Sauron as a floating eyeball
 - Made Aragorn renounce his kingship so he can Go On A Journey
 - Cut out Glorfindel and replaced his role with Arwen
 - Invented an entire secondary antagonist only for Aragorn to kill him
 - Rearranged the entire plot structure of the middle third
 - Put Elves in Helm's Deep
 - Have Frodo dismiss Sam and Sam abandon Frodo
 - Completely warped Faramir, Denethor, Theoden and others
 - Have the Oathbreakers save the day in the most contrived way possible
 - And much, much more

And in the upcoming film already:

 - Are expanding a self-contained single story into a two-parter using supplementary material
 - Have invented a peppy female elf warrior
 - Have already stuck in Saruman, Galadriel and Radagast despite them not appearing in the book

Really, any Tolkien purists who are only now starting to get the idea that they might have problems with the upcoming film have no sympathy from me.  The idea that all the many divergences from the stories were perfectly alright, but inserting Orlando Bloom - no, that's a step too far.

I really doubt there are any Tolkien purists thinking that, though: more likely the media just seems to imagine their own things.  After all, fantasy fans are still easy targets.  The Lord of the Rings trilogy may be among the most Oscar-blessed films in history, The Harry Potter series may be among the highest-earning series, and A Game of Thrones may be one of the most popular TV shows in recent years, but heaven help the guys who still read those musty old tomes.  They're still fair game.

I truly don't foresee The Hobbit films being substantially different from the trilogy.  They're going to get some things pitch-perfect, they're going to do some things very well, they're going to do some things that aren't in the book but work well in context, and they're going to do some things that have Tolkien fans tearing their hair out.  Orlando Bloom's Legolas isn't going to doom or save this film: it's fate has already been sealed in the minds of Tolkien fans, for good or ill.

Monday 23 May 2011

The Second Scottish Invasion of Cross Plains

Since I still haven't gotten around to reporting on the last Scottish Invasion, I figure perhaps it would be better to do occassional updates from the field. I'm currently reporting from Philadelphia, waiting for my connecting flight to Phoenix, Arizona.

I've been falling a bit behind on both blogs, so I really hope I can get back on track in the downtime between dinosaur hunting and skyborne trekking.

I'll try to get a more substantial post up when I get to my relatives. Till then...

UPDATE: Well, no internet connection where I'm set up, however, my relatives have gratiously allowed me access to their internet connection. Infuriating considering there's a lot of Conan movie news and such to get through (as well as me leaving half my work at home) things are going to be unfortunately quite sparse round these parts for at least the next week: when I get down to 36 West with the internet connection, then things should pick up a bit.

Friday 20 May 2011

Jeffrey Catherine Jones, Requiescat in Pace

I got the very sad news from Terry Allen that Jeffrey Catherine Jones, artist extraordinaire and the person Frank  Frazetta called the greatest living painter, has departed for the worlds beyond worlds.

I haven't spend nearly enough time talking about JCJ's fantastic work, but the blogosphere has not let the death of a modern legend go by unnoticed: Bill "Indy" Cavalier, Mike Cane, Matt at Ferrett Press, and no doubt others have paid their respects.

This video by Maria Cabardo says it all, and I think it's of comfort that JCJ at least found peace and acceptance before the end.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Maxim are either incredibly smart or incredibly stupid

In the June 2011 issue of Maxim magazine, there is a brief "fast facts" snippet about Conan and Robert E. Howard. I have to parentheses the facts portion as "We" all know better.

Amaron's post over at the Robert E. Howard Forums piqued my interest, but further developments are just too good to leave alone. I'll just replicate what I said over there.

It says, Conan debuted in 1932, making him older than Superman but younger than Mickey Mouse.

Cool factoid: Solomon Kane's older than all three!

Mickey Mouse first appearance: November 1928
Solomon Kane's first appearance: August 1928

Conan was born in the fictional Hyborian Age in Cimmeria, thought to be modern-day Ukraine - (Funny, that is the first time I have ever heard that one.)

I think they're getting it mixed up with another Cimmeria: the historical Cimmerians lived in the area of modern Ukraine. I've heard it a few times, usually when people try to justify the Austrian accent. ("Austria's right next to Ukraine!")

At least they didn't say "Hyboria," though.

Howard described Conan as 6'2", 210 pounds, supposedly the authors own weight and height.


Conan's an orphan: His mom was decapitated and his dad was eaten by dogs.

Figures. Strange they don't mention Thulsa Doom, though.

Officer Aggro scanned in the page, and there's a delightfully ironic bit in the top right corner:

"Incredibly Untrustworthy Source" indeed.  One wonders if that was intentional on their part.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

The Main Problem with the Conan the Barbarian Trailer (and film in general)

I've been holding off on revealing my opinion on the Conan trailer for a while, mostly because I think I've finally achieved the last stage of the Kübler-Ross model.

Stage 1: Denial
Date: 23rd February 2009
Trigger: the Latino Review Featurette
"Let's not be hasty, guys, the Latino Review might have gotten their facts wrong, or perhaps someone's screwing about with them. No way is this script outline real: "Khalar Singh"? Conan's tribe being wiped out yet again? Acheron being a significant plot point in what's chronologically the first Conan story, but never gets mentioned again until the very last? Come on, guys."

Stage 2: Anger
Time: 23rd October 2009
Trigger: Moviehole character casting sheet report
"I am vexed. After almost 80 years, we're going to get Another Made Up Origin Story just like the one we had 30 years ago.  It is extremely difficult to amply convey my deep and resolute exasperation at this turn of events."

Stage 3: Bargaining
Time: 12th September 2010
Event: Encouraging reports on Blackman's script for the sequel
"OK, OK, maybe there's another way of looking at it: if this film does well, then can we get an actual Howard adaptation? If this film does well at the box office, maybe we'll finally get a Howard story on the big screen. Maybe Blackman's script really is a pretty close adaptation of one of the original Conan tales - come on guys, this could be our chance!"

Stage 4: Depression
Time: 12th March 2011
Trigger: Conan the Barbarian teaser released

Stage 5: Acceptance
Time: 17th May 2011
Trigger: This post
"You know what? This is happening. It can't be stopped. It can't be changed. It can't be helped. We just have to figure out what we're going to do from here."

It's a source of constant amusement to me that there are several folk on various boards who think I'm somehow not a "real" Conan fan because I have the audacity to try and give the movie the benefit of the doubt.  Some even seem to think I've gone soft, that Sean Hood's outreach has given me some sort of about-turn on the project, and that I've said the formerly heinous script was now awesome (Wikipedius, he say: "citation needed.")  As far as they're concerned, I'm now the project's number 1 fan, and I brush off all criticisms with a "hey, at least it isn't Ahnold." They have no idea how very, very wrong they are. What they don't know is that giving the film that benefit of the doubt is the only thing that's keeping me sane.

Monday 16 May 2011

Conan the Barbarian Review Reviews: Roger Ebert

(Note: you'll notice that I've not been keeping up on the blog. Part of it's stuff for Conan Movie Blog, part of it's the book, another part's getting ready for Cross Plains. And gremlins. As consolation, here's a Review Review I put on the backburner due to its contentious subject matter, but considering I'm pretty sure Ebert's going to do a review of the upcoming Conan film, I figure I may as well.)

Ah, Roger Ebert. Doug Walker, a fan of Siskel & Ebert, has a tribute to the pair which illustrates nicely the nature of the man and his work. While I can appreciate his popularity and contributions to film studies, I'm not a fan. I find that he's too quick to apply a perceived agenda to films, and can be derisive of films not adhering to a script 3-act structure made in the past 50 years. He also tends to make a few factual errors, which is one of those things only nitpickers like myself are really bothered with.

However, nothing bothered me quite as much as his review of Conan the Barbarian. The reasons will be self evident.

Friday 13 May 2011

This is why you shouldn't block me.

Because I can't correct this minor error on Filmshaft:

I don't think it's unfair for me to say that there's more than a few fans out there who are overly cautious about Millennium Pictures' long awaited reboot of Conan the Barbarian, and with good reason too. It has taken the project several years to get off of the ground, with production dates being pushed further and further back as a result. Also, to be fair, the original films, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger are hardly classics, so what could be worth looking forward to in the reboot which crashes into cinemas later this year?

Well to start with, you may (or may not, take your pick) breath a sigh of relief to find out that the new film, directed by Marcus Nispel, is NOT based on Arnie's movies, but rather the Robert E. Howard comicbooks.

Of course, I can't comment, because evidently Martyn Conterio is still peeved that I patiently and helpfully corrected him, and...

And unless some other good soul corrects Craig Sharp, his article will continue to reflect poorly on him.

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Grant Morrison and Barry Sonnenfeld MUST SUCCEED.

Deadline have reported this... transcendent news:

EXCLUSIVE: Barry Sonnenfeld, finishing up his third Men in Black film, has come up with a new spin on the alien film genre. Sonnenfeld is at the center of a publishing/movie deal with Liquid Comics and producer Arnold Rifkin and his Cheyenne Enterprises. Sonnenfeld will team with comic book writer Grant Morrison to develop a graphic novel and movie under the title: Dominion: Dinosaurs Versus Aliens. Morrison, whose comic book work includes Batman and The Invisibles, will write both the graphic novel and the script. Sonnenfeld will direct the film.

While Sonnenfeld has scored his biggest commercial successes with aliens, he's also a dinosaur fanatic who sparked to the idea of combining them. "Growing up, my fascination was all things dinosaur, and as an adult, I've had some success making films about aliens, so this is a dream come true," said Sonnenfeld, who first met Liquid Comics founder Sharad Devarajan when he wrote a forward for one of Liquid's graphic novels. "We've been trying to do a project ever since."
The graphic novel will chronicle a secret prehistoric world war battle. When an alien invasion attacks Earth in the age of the dinosaurs, the planet's only hope is the giants that roam the planet with, it turns out, a lot more intelligence than previously realized.  Sonnenfeld, Rifkin and Devarajan will produce, while Liquid cofounder Gotham Chopra will be executive producer. WME will package the film.

The graphic novel will be published later this year in print and digital formats. Artwork will be done by Liquid's Mukesh Singh, who teamed with Morrison on 18 Days. Morrison's repped by ICM.

Normally this is where I'd call up 8-year-old-Ally, but frankly, 27-year-old-Ally is just as demented at this news.  Grant Morrison and Barry Sonnenfeld.  Working on a film that involves a war between aliens and dinosaurs.

Hollywood, listen to me very carefully. Whatever it is Grant Morrison and Barry Sonnenfeld need to make this film - money, wine, women, men, drugs, Fabergé eggs, their own sovereign country - let them have it.  Give it to them.  Make this happen.


Monday 9 May 2011

Two new zones for Age of Conan

Sorry for the lack of posts, but I've been busy over at the Conan Movie Blog.  Only one more post to go, though.  Still, I feel I should comment on this, at least:

As the film's heating up, it's obvious Age of Conan's going to be kicking things up a notch.  Thus, Age of Conan has announced two new provinces for the game:

Game director Craig Morrison hinted on the AoC forums last month that new content will be made available.
"This is where we get to the stuff we can't quite talk about just yet..." he said, "Yes, a little teasing I know, but trust us, it is far more frustrating not being able to talk about what is coming just yet. These will be important updates, with two new and important elements incoming."
Massively has already confirmed that the in-game player search tab now includes additional regions to filter searches. This has led users to believe new zones will be added in to the game: Turan and Ardashir, alongside the Hyborian provinces currently in-game.
Other speculations about further in-game content have been led by Funcom's annual report which states the game will see story tie-ins relating to the upcoming Conan the Barbarian film being released this year.

The inclusion of Turan is kickass, I won't lie even though I wonder how the hell they're going to include a country that's three times the size of Aquilonia at the time of the game's story.  But Ardashir?  The hell is an Ardashir?

Thursday 5 May 2011

It's as if they knew...

Yesterday, I decided to spend time with my mother.  Helping her out with housework, hauling bags and furniture around, chatting, that sort of thing. I thought: "eh, there hasn't been much news on the Conan movie front, I figure I can stay away from the computer for a few days."  I come back at about 2pm today, but since I've already spent enough time on the 'net, I get started working on my book again.  It had really fallen by the wayside recently, and I was starting to fear the monster Procrastination was rousing from its slumber.  So I stay off the 'net, and start collating and organizing references to Conan's adventures not catalogued in story form (his youth, burning the Stygian fleet, ascension to the throne, etc).

Then I check the time.  6 o'clock.  Hmm, time to check my emails, just in case there's some snippet of information.  I see Sean Hood's sent an email.  In it, he said the following:

...I'm sure you are watching and analyzing the trailer.


I immediately check my other emails, and sure enough, tons of people have sent me links to the new Conan the Barbarian trailer.  One was from 2 o'clock this morning.  I was 16 hours late on this massive Conan movie news.  The one day I decide to stay away from the distractions of the internet, and it's the same day the Conan trailer comes out.  So, in a veritable whirling dervish of watching, rewatching, listening and screencapping, I started analyzing the trailer 16 hours after it first came out.  Bless Sean and the others for thinking I was deep in thought carefully analyzing this bombshell, but in truth I was going out of my skull sifting through notes on another thing entirely. I probably should've just lied and said "yes, of course, I've been spending several hours watching it on 1/20th speed hooked up to a 50-inch television backwards and forwards," but I'm a terrible liar.

It's preposterous.  This is cosmic junctioning of Adamsian levels.  Of all the days, it was this day?

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Ask Momo!

I promise not to snort derisively at that "Robert E. Howard friendly" statement:

"With the new (Robert E Howard friendly) Conan the Barbarian due at cinemas August 19th, Lionsgate can confirm some very exciting news regarding a filmed interview with the awesome Jason Momoa (Conan himself) when he is in London briefly on May 10th. The idea is to open up the first big interview to “20 questions from UK fans/blogs” much like Peter Jackson’s legendary Ain’t it Cool News fan questions written piece during the early production of Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. This Conan version will be a video, and it is a very early opportunity... as such it seemed fitting to open it up more broadly than going with one big website or newspaper."

Well let's get cracking on this, folks!

I've already left my question:

Jason, which of Howard's stories did you draw from the most in developing your interpretation of Conan? 

But just so you know what we're up against, I've taken the liberty of showing the preceding seven comments:

Aloha Jason....your old Friend "Texas" here, I have a two part question for you.
1) As the new age "Conan", so to speak, what do you hope your fan's take away from your portrayal of Conan vs. the Iconic "Arnold's Conan?" I know the story line is portraying REH's Conan, however SO MANY people still compair you to the original.
2) Will we have the honor of seeing you at any Comic Cons or Cons in geneeral in the future?
 - Tiffinie "TexanBeauty" Edge

My question for Jason Momoa.
What three words best describs Conan to you?
 - Blue007

hi jason,as a kid i thought the arnold conan sword was the coolest thing i ever seen, did you try to get that original sword for your role.
 - lee gilhooley

What was it like to work with Rose McGowan?
 - Bruce

Were you allowed to bring in some of your own personality to make Conan a more 'loveable' character or was it necessary to keep the role inline with REH's description?
 - Mirishka

If you could change one thing about the Conan character, what would you change and why?
 - MoreMomoa

Between Conan, Ronon Dex and Khal Drogo characters, who was the most fun to play and why?
 - Julie Nicholls

Some good questions, some fair, others... Well, better get in there before the inevitable "who would win in a fight between Conan, Ronon and Drogo"

Love, Cimmerian Style

A curious post regarding the recent teaser's use of "I live, I love, I slay, and I am content" over at the IMDB, apparently originating over at The Conan Completist:

"'s used to define the character in the trailer and they should have chosen a different line to present him. The line and specially the way it was spoken presents Conan primarily as a seductive man, not as a tough warrior. And we fans we don't want a movie about a lover, we want a movie about a warrior (if he also loves it's ok, but it should't be a essential part of the character from the start). Conan was not into giving his heart to every women he met. He was gentle with them, but he just *beep* them, didn't loved them. 
In the REH story the line was told to his most important lover (his true love indeed, not one of his several bitches), to seduce her and let her know he had a heart besides being a slayer. He was actually speaking about his happy days with Belit, when he killed men and loved her after the battles, but these days were not his normal way of living cause he usually was a total loner who didn't gave his heart to anyone. In that quote with Belit he was opening his heart as he never did before. It's not Conan said that line to every person he met to define himself, at all. It's absolutely taken OUT OF CONTEXT. If you choose that particular quote you are thinking on letting know the audience this character is equally a lover and a killer, and that's not the point. He was a survivor, warrior, a killer, mainly. Then he could also love but only to a very few women really, so it doesn't define REH's Conan spirit.

I think the quote was, sadly, chosen to attract female audience.

A line which would more faithfully define Conan's spirit would be "I live, I *beep*, I slay...". Of course that wouldn't attract female audience cause that's too male chauvinist and zero romantic. Ironically is more faithful to Conan's everyday life."  

Hmm.  I'll have to discuss this.

Monday 2 May 2011

8-Year-Old Reviews: Thor

Warning: spoilers, gushing and capital locks herein.

Sunday 1 May 2011

Of Hedgehogs and Foxes

Too many of the comparisons between JRRT and GRRM concentrate on the "realism" between the two. Look at this review of A Game of Thrones:

Some people have compared it to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (LOTR). I enjoyed LOTR. However Tolkien minimized the ability of lust and greed to motivate people. For example, when Aragorn arrives to claim his kingdom, the last King had been missing for about ONE THOUSAND YEARS.  At the story’s end the Steward eagerly hands over rulership. While such unwavering duty, honor and loyalty was indeed the ideal of the Anglo-Saxon, Finnish, Celtic and Norse myths that inspired Tolkien, real life events were messier.  Were Tolkien more realistic, the Stewards would have declared themselves Kings ages ago. If Aragorn showed up, the current King would have arranged a very quick execution for Aragorn and his supporters.

(Wait, Denethor eagerly handed over rulership? Since freakin' when? Why would the Stewards bother to declare themselves kings when they're functionally rulers of kingdoms in the absence of the original bloodline of kings anyway? As for Denethor quickly executing Aragorn and his supporters - are you saying Denethor's going to execute not just one of the most potent figures of hope and encouragement the kingdom's experienced in centuries, but the vast reinforcements Aragorn brought along at the nick of time that saved his kingdom's bacon from the innumerable hordes of Mordor?  Don't be bleeding preposterous.)

Most of all, though, I can't help but laugh at the idea that Tolkien somehow downplayed the ability of greed to motivate people, when greed is practically one of the biggest motivators in the entire saga.  What else but greed was it that motivated nine kings of men to fall to darkness and enter the unwavering service of darkest evil?  What else but greed motivated the destruction of the northern kingdom of Arnor?  What else but greed got the last king killed in the first place, and is a primary reason for nearly all the bad things that happen to all the kingdoms and characters in the book?  I can understand Tolkien not concentrating on lust, but greed?  I mean good grief, man.

That said, sometimes ones come across some genuine food for thought. I came across a rather fascinating essay today comparing Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings to Martin's A Game of Thrones. While I don't agree with everything Janet Potter says, particularly in regards to LotR, she does put forward this very intriguing morsel:

I was a Russian major in college, so I can’t read a 500+ page book without Isaiah Berlin whispering in my ear. Berlin was the author of “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” an essay based on an ancient Greek adage: “the fox knows many little things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” Berlin divides writers into these two categories. Hedgehogs view the world as a stage for a single, encompassing logic (power corrupts, love conquers all, that kind of thing). Foxes are more fascinated by the infinite variety of the human condition. In Berlin’s signature comparison, Dostoevsky is a hedgehog, and Tolstoy is a fox.
The fantasy genre, although I admit I’m not its most versed reader, is full of hedgehogs. Godfather Tolkien, certainly, is pure hedgehog. What I find most fascinating about Martin is that he’s a fox in a hedgehog genre. While his world looks like fantasy (bastards! dwarves! whores! knights!), and the action revolves around the question of the seven kingdoms’ throne (Will Robert keep it? Are the Lannisters plotting for it? Will the Targaryens reclaim it?), the focus is on the clashing relationships and motivations of the people involved in the struggle.

Her preposterous first paragraph statement aside ("although I'm not an expert on this genre, I can still make authoritative statements on it because I did a Russian major") I think this is a very thoughtful and intriguing way to go. I found the entire original essay here:

There is a line among the fragments of the Greek poet Archilochus which says: ‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.’ Scholars have differed about the correct interpretation of these dark words, which may mean no more than that the fox, for all his cunning, is defeated by the hedgehog’s one defence. But, taken figuratively, the words can be made to yield a sense in which they mark one of the deepest differences which divide writers and thinkers, and, it may be, human beings in general. For there exists a great chasm between those, on one side, who relate everything to a single central vision, one system, less or more coherent or articulate, in terms of which they understand, think and feel –  a single, universal, organising principle in terms of which alone all that they are and say has significance –and, on the other side, those who pursue many ends, often unrelated and even contradictory, connected, if at all, only in some de facto way for some psychological or physiological cause, related to no moral or aesthetic principle.
These last lead lives, perform acts and entertain ideas that are centrifugal rather than centripetal; their thought is scattered or diffused, moving on many levels, seizing upon the essence of a vast variety of experiences and objects for what they are in themselves, without, consciously or unconsciously, seeking to fit them into, or exclude them from, any one unchanging, all- embracing, sometimes self-contradictory and incomplete, at times fanatical, unitary inner vision. The first kind of intellectual and artistic personality belongs to the hedgehogs, the second to the foxes; and without insisting on a rigid classification, we may, without too much fear of contradiction, say that, in this sense, Dante belongs to the first category, Shakespeare to the second; Plato, Lucretius, Pascal, Hegel, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Ibsen, Proust are, in varying degrees, hedgehogs; Herodotus, Aristotle, Montaigne, Erasmus, Molie`re, Goethe, Pushkin, Balzac, Joyce are foxes.

Of course, like all over-simple classifications of this type, the dichotomy becomes, if pressed, artificial, scholastic and ultimately absurd. But if it is not an aid to serious criticism, neither should it be rejected as being merely superficial or frivolous; like all distinctions which embody any degree of truth, it offers a point of view from which to look and compare, a starting-point for genuine investigation.
 - Isaiah Berlin, "The Hedgehog and the Fox"

I don't know why I haven't come across this idea before, since I did a little philosophy at college - albeit just the beginner's level - but it sounds like the sort of thing I'd gravitate towards.  Of course, it isn't a perfect dichotomy, and the dichotomy isn't necessarily found in either Tolkien's nor Martin's works.  There are tons of little things in The Lord of the Rings, and as Potter later admits, there might be a big in A Game of Thrones, and I really wonder if it's true that fantasy is full of hedgehogs at all. That said, it got me thinking about other authors, and whether they're hedgehogs or foxes.

Some are fairly clear, to me, at least. Lovecraft strikes me as a quintessential hedgehog: he wrote pretty much exclusively in the realm of horror and weird, his characters mostly cut of the same cloth, and most of them have something to do with the harsh cosmic indifference codified by his Yog-Sothothery.  Conan Doyle, then, seems like a fox: he wrote in a wide variety of genres, his characters and settings draw from a wide selection of types and fields, and his themes seem to vary from work to work.

Based on my reading of the essay, I can make a preliminary and no doubt wildly subjective sorting of my favourite authors into these disparate taxons. In my crazy world, Jules Verne, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. Rider Haggard, C.L. Moore, Isaac Asimov, Ursula le Guin, Michael Moorcock, Lord Dunsany, Charles Saunders, and J.R.R. Tolkien are hedgehogs, while Alexandre Dumas, H.G. Wells, Harlan Ellison, Lloyd Alexander, Theodore Sturgeon, Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, Alfred Bester, A. Merrit, and Olaf Stapledon are foxes. As you can see, while I suspected there would be a correlation with fantasy authors being hedgehogs and SF authors being foxes, there are more fantasy foxes and SF hedgehogs than I expected in my assessment.

Then, there are those who seem to confound me. Clark Ashton Smith, for example, has arguments for both, perhaps making him some sort of bushy-tailed, spiny hedgefox. Another one of these is Robert E. Howard. Do Howard's grand unifying themes about barbarism & civilization, hate, decadence, atavism, and the like make him a hedgehog, or do the multiple exceptions and divergences and work in multiple genres make him a fox?

Then I go on to the ultimate question: am I a hedgehog or a fox, or a fox who believes he's a hedgehog, or a hedgehog under the delusion he's a fox, or one or the other who is one but aspires to be another? Ever the contrarian, I don't think it has to be an either/or situation: I'd like to think there are big things and little things. As Berlin says, the dichotomy isn't concrete, and enforcing it as such would defeat its very purposes. So I'll just say I'm a badger: both the fox and the hedgehog have valid arguments, but it isn't as simple as pluralism or monism.

I don't know whether it's because I'm a bit of a contrarian absurdist at heart, but I get the distinct impression that this is one of those things that might be very subjective, and that whether an author is a pluralist or a monist depends upon the observer as much as the work itself. And, again, Berlin notes this, as he argues that Dostoevsky believed Pushkin to be similar to himself, where Berlin considered the former to be a hedgehog and the latter an "arch-fox." So there's always that little voice in the back of my mind saying "are you sure you aren't just seeing things that aren't there?  Is there something you're unconsciously blocking from your view which contradicts your argument?"  Such is the nature of a guy who is frequently confounded by the vagaries of philosophy.

The best remedy is debate: what do you fine folks think?  Have I gotten some authors completely wrong, or do you think I might have something?  Have I completely misinterpreted the argument itself? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the notion.

All this talk of hedgehogs and foxes and badgers has me thinking of The Animals of Farthing Wood, which makes A Game of Thrones look like Winnie the Pooh when it comes to the merciless slaughtering of characters. Maybe that's why I'm so unimpressed by A Game of Thrones: when you've watched sentient animals being killed every other episode of a children's cartoon, deaths in gritty fantasy sagas don't have the same heartwrenching impact.