Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Guest Post: Why "Man vs Man" is less effective than "Man vs Supernatural"


Were you disappointed in the recent Conan the Barbarian movie?  Perhaps you expected Sword & Sorcery...


Thanks to Shaun Duke who invited me to guest blog on his site "World in a Satin Bag"  (WISB).  Shaun is an aspiring writer, a reviewer, and graduate student (studying science fiction, postcolonialism, posthumanism, and fantasy at the University of Florida).  WISB includes book and movie reviews, interviews with authors, literary analyses, discussions of genre, publishing, and more...


Here is an excerpt; check out the entire article the WISB:

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 : Guest Post: Sword and Sorcery -- Why "Man vs Man"is less effective than "Man vs Supernatural" by S. E. Lindberg


"Fantasy readers and movie-goers maintain an expectation that protagonists will battle supernatural forces. Those forces may manifest in humans (“bad guys”); however, when the supernatural element is diluted (or superficially offered in clich├ęd, familiar forms so that the protagonist literally battles a man) then expectations are not met. Consumers become disappointed. The lack luster reception of this year’s movie, Conan the Barbarian, is a good example of this expectation being unsatisfied.

Of course, Man vs. Supernatural conflict is ubiquitous across fantasy. Most recognizable of Supernatural antagonists may be Tolkien’s bodiless Sauron. Nearly three decades before Sauron stalked bookshelves and haunted rings, Conan creator Robert Ervin Howard originated the Sword & Sorcery genre by writing action-packed shorts exploring Man vs. Supernatural.

Sword & Sorcery was coined by author Fritz Leiber years after REH passed, but as he suggested the name he also clarified the role of the supernatural: 
I feel more certain than ever that this field should be called the sword-and-sorcery story. This accurately describes the points of culture-level and supernatural element and also immediately distinguishes it from the cloak-and-sword (historical adventure) story—and (quite incidentally) from the cloak-and-dagger (international espionage) story… (Fritz Leiber, Amra, 1961)
But it was Lin Carter who may have best defined Sword and Sorcery in his introduction to his Flashing Sword series (Carter, with L. Sprague de Camp, posthumously co-authored several Conan tales):
We call a story Sword & Sorcery when it is an action tale, derived from the traditions of the pulp magazine adventure story, set in a land or age or world of the author’s invention—a milieu in which magic actually works and the gods are real—and a story, moreover, which pits a stalwart warrior in direct conflict with the forces of supernatural evil. (Lin Carter, Flashing Swords I, 1973)

REH wrote twenty-one Conan tales, and no human antagonist persisted across them. Each story had bad guys/creatures/etc., but they were overt proxies for greater supernatural evils. Hence, the conflict was Conan (the Man) vs. Supernatural...."

Read the rest on the WISB: