• Jason

Said it Best #1: Erikson on Modern Heroes

Here's a new series I'll randomly add to as I find things said well - in my opinion.

Number 1 is the spot-on, off-the-cuff reply Steven Erikson provided in this new fireside chat. Around 54:48, when asked about his themes of humanity-compassion-witness, Erikson described his employment of compassion to present heroism. He concluded that the witnessing of the compassionate action is truly the witnessing of the heroic, adding at 57:42 that the notion of what constitutes a hero today seems to have devolved. I agree. He goes further in exploring this through analysis of motivation, seeing the majority of today's idealized characters (or Lord Byronic heroes) as driven by personal gain rather than the non-personal nature of compassion.

Steven prefaces his (actually not off-the-cuff, this is a variation of his regular, well-reasoned answer to dullard's grimdark queries) reply by referencing a 2011 article by Leo Grin bemoaning the gutter-dive of modernite's ideas of heroes. I find Grin's summation of the motivations within today's current obsession with 'grim' writers/writing well-put:

Soiling the building blocks and well-known tropes of our treasured modern myths is no different than other artists taking a crucifix and dipping it in urine, covering it in ants, or smearing it with feces. In the end, it’s just another small, pathetic chapter in the decades-long slide of Western civilization into suicidal self-loathing. It’s a well-worn road: bored middle-class creatives (almost all of them college-educated liberals) living lives devoid of any greater purpose inevitably reach out for anything deemed sacred by the conservatives populating any artistic field. They co-opt the language, the plots, the characters, the cliches, the marketing, and proceed to deconstruct it all like a mad doctor performing an autopsy. Then, using cynicism, profanity, scatology, dark humor, and nihilism, they put it back together into a Frankenstein’s monster designed to shock, outrage, offend, and dishearten.
In the case of the fantasy genre, the result is a mockery and defilement of the mythopoeic splendor that true artists like Tolkien and Howard willed into being with their life’s blood. Honor is replaced with debasement, romance with filth, glory with defeat, and hope with despair. Edgy? Nah, just punk kids farting in class and getting some giggles from the other mouth-breathers.

The last there being another great 'Said it Best' idea. However, Grin is not accurate in his lumping Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen into his 'fallen fantasists/nihilism' denouncement. Regretfully, Leo took his thoughts from negative Amazon reviews, who - when read by someone who actually embraces Erikson's vision - have missed the mark widely. I rather wish Leo had read the MBOTF, as he has a history of offering insightful analysis, but I completely understand not everyone enjoys tomes or long series, and the MBOTF definitely consists of both. One does not simply. . .pick up a single title late in the series and lump all together into a thoughtless gelatin.

So - do you think the modern heroic character has been elevated/elevated the heroic genres - or has it devolved?

Regarding the fireside chat interview, it is long, and the interviewer is, well, irritating, but there is a lot of sweet erudite commentary from the always wonderful Steven Erikson, so I do recommend it. . .at least that last 12 or so minutes. There's also some cool stuff to be found in this accompanying compilation of info and links.

My thanks to the previously-unknown-to-me game HEROES EVOLVED for the logo I so viciously debased. Sounds like it was a rather fun game.

#heroes #Erikson #Grin #HeroesEvolved #Malazan #MBOTF #nihilsm

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