...I grew up on The Twilight Zone
stories and they were as fantastic as they got and were always grounded in humanity and human emotions. I think modern fantasy, and Tolkien’s work took off right after The Twilight Zone
was cancelled, began in the 60’s and hasn’t changed since. Withholding judgment, I find that to be a remarkable and depressing fact....
By the conventions handed down:
A Tolkien-type fantasy, the only kind allowed, must take place in something resembling the Middle Ages.
It must have the usual folk accoutrements of trolls, elves, etc.
There must be an Evil Force
that everyone once thought had long been vanquished, but which now has returned (which raises a question of whether it could keep returning).
There must be a quest
to find or return something.
There must be an invented mythology/language
to support the whole business. Note: the writer is free to borrow. For example, I believe there is a relationship between Wagner’s Ring
and Tolkien, though I hasten to add I am not accusing the latter of plagiarism.
There must be lots of characters with minimal or no sense of humor.
There must be a disconnect from everyday reality, at no point is the reader to be reminded of the everyday realities of bill-paying, work, and/or family squabbles. Fantasy is to escape. And yes, Serling’s
fantasies were not about escape.
There must be no allegory — and here I salute Tolkien. I think that was an absolutely correct decision. Allegory is like satire — nobody understands it and nobody cares about it. By dispensing with allegorical interpretations, Tolkien freed him to write something that anyone could readily interpret for their own purposes (In the 60’s I recall, Orcs = Narcs was all the rage)
These I believe to be all necessary conditions. But the question is: are they sufficient?
— Science fiction author J. Kel, author of Shedding Grace
, on "The Tolkien Template"