Tolkien and Sanderson

Sarah Garelik, Univ of South Dakota
Meta-fantasy at Play: Tolkien’s ‘Secondary World’ and Sanderson’s Fantasy-Religion in Steelheart

Critics began to see the value of examining cultural assumptions through fiction…

In fantasy “man becomes a sub-creator” Tolkien
Invention of adjective… incantation…
(really long quote—hundreds of words)
rare that lit crit is so eloquent

sff authors are creators of new worlds and we are creators of texts when we read them (typical reader-response theory)

must be a basis for understanding
truths that transfer over may be ideas (gender, class) or simple concepts (food, horse)

Sanderson posits additional layer
Additional world beyond the created world. World in periphery of audience’s perception.
Magic alchemy and religion of survivors (hero of ages is another level)

Steelheart heroes against the epics (villain superheros)
Has one weakness
David as child saw Steelheart wounded in bank robbery.
Theme = power corrupts
Calamity = random red ball giving random powers to random people
Epics had lack of conscience. Why did they kill? Because amazing power twisted?


since 1939 even idea of fantastic has become commonplace
explosion of popularity of sff
more and more accustomed to their tropes
readers are seeking escape from those conventions


You catastrophe in Steelheart = Epics and humans can co-exist.
Power shared is freed of corrupting influence.

Increasing interest by popular culture in sff

from ORU, 2015

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