The PC Police Strike Again in the Form of Andy Duncan

I should be used to it by now. After all, it seems a week doesn’t go by without someone claiming a “classic” book or movie is racist. We’ve watched publishers sanitize books like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, as well as others, by changing the “N”-word into something more socially acceptable. Forget about the fact the word was in common usage at the time when the book was written and set. Oh no, we must protect our poor little darlings from exposure to a word instead of using it as a teaching moment.

More recently, we have seen it with theaters refusing to show Gone With the Wind. Why? Because of language and the images it presents of slavery. Gone from much of the theater rounds is Showboat and for much the same reasons. If you do happen to see it, you will find it subtly changed from the original. Hell’s bells, when they showed the live performance of Sound of Music on broadcast TV not long ago, even it had been changed.

And all to be more socially relevant and acceptable to those who don’t want to face the harsh realities of our past and learn from them. I hate the term “teachable moment”, but each of these titles present a number of those opportunities. Moments when we could discuss not only the “wrongness” of something but also how the characters did something right. You know, show our kids that we can learn from our mistakes and become better people.

But no. Better to shield them completely so they can make those very same mistakes.


The latest example of applying today’s standards to something written decades ago comes to us via author Andy Duncan. If you looked at the name and asked “Who?”, you aren’t alone. I recognized the name but couldn’t name a single title he’d written. Neither could most of those I spoke with yesterday after seeing the article that became the basis of today’s post. A quick google search turned up he’s a fantasy writer and he taught at Clarion for a couple of years. I guess that wasn’t enough. Now he has to try to tear down one of the masters of fantasy, J. R. R. Tolkien and his classic The Lord of the Rings.

I’ll admit, my first reaction when I saw the allegation that Tolkien was racist–and against Orcs no less–I didn’t know whether to laugh or toss my iPad against the wall. Then, when I saw that Duncan had written “Senator Bilbo”, the lightbulb went off. Here is yet another author criticizing a long dead master of the craft, and doing so in a way that the politically correct vocal minority in our field, would love him for. If it helps drum up sales for the collection that contains his short story, all the better.

And no, the Senator Bilbo he writes about is not our beloved Bilbo Baggins. Oh, the character he uses is named Bilbo Baggins. He is a senator, cut from the same cloth, allegedly, as real-life Senator Theodore Bilbo (who died more than a decade before LOTR was written). If I remember my history correctly, the real Senator Bilbo was a product of his time and place–the Deep South. Now those traits have been transferred to Bilbo Baggins of the Shire.

According to Duncan,

“‘Senator Bilbo’ is this parody in which you have this racist demagogue stomping around the world of the halflings, in a sort of desperate holding pattern to keep at bay all the change that is coming about as a result of what seems to have been the War of the Ring,”

But he doesn’t leave it at that. He goes on to say,

“It’s hard to miss the repeated notion in Tolkien that some races are just worse than others, or that some peoples are just worse than others,” Duncan says. “And this seems to me—in the long term, if you embrace this too much—it has dire consequences for yourself and for society.”

That sound you hear is my head banging against my desk–simply because I don’t have Duncan’s head to beat against it.

If that is how he feels, why doesn’t he write his own ORIGINAL work, showing how such an attitude is wrong? Why doesn’t he look at works by lesser known authors and use them for his parody? Silly me, the answer is simple. He couldn’t make as much publicity hay by taking one Joe Blow author as he can by trying to drag down one of the most well-known fantasy authors of the modern age.

It seems the goal today of all too many authors is to destroy the foundation upon which our genres are built. These authors insist on applying today’s rules and mores to works decades and more old. They refuse to look at the history of the author, unless they cherrypick actions or situations that fit the narrative. For example, in all his criticism of Tolkien and LOTR, does Duncan mention this little fact?

The criticism comes despite Tolkien being known as a fierce critic of racism, particularly the Nazi Germany regime in the 1930s and 40s.

And, yes, he brings in politics and Trump. You knew he would. Admit it. How many of these “woke” authors pass up a chance to take a swing, no matter how badly they’ll whiff, at the current Administration.

It is easier to demonise one’s opponents than to try to understand them and to understand the complex forces that are leading to, for example, refugees trying to cross the southern border [of the US] legally or illegally.

‘It’s easier to build walls and demonise them as “scum”.

Duncan, and his supporters, make much of the fact that you have Light and Dark, good and bad, and certain “races” fall squarely into one or the other. Okay, life isn’t like that. There are nuances to each of us, some good and some bad. However, this is fantasy. From the beginning of the first tale told around the fire, it has been good vs. evil, light vs. dark. Just because we are more “enlightened” and more “educated”–I won’t say more mature because I don’t believe it–that doesn’t change. Tolkien wrote a nuanced series of books, and his characters were products of their environments.

Hmm, much like we are, no?

As someone who has read everything Tolkien published while he was alive and much of what Christopher Tolkien published of his father’s work after his death, all I can say is that Duncan is full of it (and yes, there are two letters missing from the beginning of that word). Not that he or his supporters will ever admit it. Just as they have tried to remove so many from the history of our genre for bad think, now they are going after Tolkien. They can’t allow anything to stand, even as a teaching moment, if it doesn’t fall into lock step with with their agenda.

What they don’t understand is they are opening the gates for folks to do the same thing to their work and it won’t take decades or more for it to happen.



    1. They do little else but demonize and dehumanize their opponents. Daily. And then turn around and lecture us about it . . .

  1. Read the story yesterday. Did a quick search on Amazon. No author page. One book (collection) released on the 16th of this month and another collection coming out on Monday. Looks like he’s trying to drum up exposure.

    1. I did that search this morning and found basically the same thing. Of course, the moment I saw he had a “Bilbo” story, I knew what he was doing. I don’t begrudge anyone trying to drum up promo for their work. What I do begrudge–hell, I hate it–is doing it at the expense of someone else, especially someone who can write circles around that particular author.

      Besides, I’m tired of the perpetually butthurt ones trying to apply today’s standards on things written decades or more ago. It doesn’t work. More importantly, we won’t learn anything from the past’s mistakes (and victories) if we erase or sanitize it.

  2. So, the fact (in canon) that the orcs are the corrupt creations of a being who deliberately chose evil and corruption seems to have escaped Mr. Duncan’s attention. That, I think, is more worthy of contemplation, especially since this year is also the anniversary of Mary Shelly’s little book of science fiction.

    But you can’t really use that to flog modern politics, since it is the Chinese who are claiming to have created the first genetically modified (virus resistant) humans.

    1. Makes no difference to him at all. We should take that into account and cut them slack. They have no control over their circumstances and there might be one who wants to be good. Or some such idiocy.

      Like so many, he condemns what he doesn’t understand and he tries to score points by showing how “woke” he is.

    2. While Mr. Duncan is a moron and likely just trying to “get his 15 minutes of frame”, Tolkien had problems with his orcs.

      As a Christian, Tolkien believed in Redemption and Free Will so having a species that was completely evil and apparently unable to “chose the Light” bothered him.

      While Morgoth might have created them as “evil”, why didn’t at least a few turn to the Light?

      Oh, while it appears that Tolkien had the orcs as corrupted elves, in some of his notes, he had other ideas on their origins/nature.

      1. The origins of the orcs became one of Tolkien’s great mental struggles in his post-LOTR writings. In his youthful exuberance, he’d written the orcs as endless supplies of henchminions for his Big Bad, without really thinking about the ontological implications of an Always Evil race. As he tried to work backwards to first principles and understand the foundations of his subcreation, he shifted from one solution to another: orcs are corrupted elves. orcs are corrupted Men. orcs are not really intelligent, but a species that can sort of mimic speech and intelligence, when their master’s will is upon them. orcs are in fact members of a order of the Maiar, similar to the one from which came Gandalf and the other Wizards, but were corrupted and chose evil, and when their bodies are destroyed, they are able to create new bodies for themselves, creating the appearance of endless hordes of orcs.

        Also, there is the issue that, from an in-universe perspective, LOTR is written by hobbit authors, and reflects their perspective on the events, which is not necessarily the author’s, who in this view is but a transcriber and translator.

      2. If an orc ever turned to the light, he would quickly be detected and killed by his fellow orcs.
        They were, after all, slaves and servants of an evil god that watched them closely. And the orcs actively sought his favor at each other’s expense.
        A story could be written about it, just like a story could be written about how The Prancing Pony was supplied with beer. But it would be completely incidental.

        Of course, fellow Inkling C.S. Lewis addressed this very possibility in his works… I recall the same people complaining about Tolkien’s orcs screaming bloody murder about Lewis’s followers of Tash.

        1. Yet, Tolkien never bought into your idea about the Orcs.

          In the millenniums after Morgoth was finally defeated (and locked safely away from Middle Earth), the Orcs were still creatures of evil.

          Sauron was much less powerful and couldn’t prevent Saruman from gaining the apparent loyalty of some of the Orcs.

          Yes, Orcs as a group might have worked to keep themselves “evil” but over the millenniums some groups of Orcs might (if they had Free Will) might have reformed.

          1. Yeah, but look how many thousands of years tribal endemic warfare cultures can be stable over in the sense of fairly consistent behavior. That’s not what Tolkein world-built, but it probably isn’t as difficult to make it work as he thought it was.

            1. Yes And No.

              The Orcs were “established” to be nasty beings even to members of the same “tribe”.

              Such a species IMO could not exist in the real world.

              Yes, I could see tribes of Orcs seeing “outsiders” as enemies/untrustworthy but not internally in their own tribe.

              How long would a tribe exist in the Real World if there was an extreme lack of trust among the members of the tribe?

              1. This is my usual problem with a lot of fantasy. There HAS to be a basic level functionality in a society or children do not grow to adulthood. There also needs to be a very very large percentage of farmers and they have to manage to grow crops regularly or else absolutely everyone starves to death on relatively short order. “The Bad Evil wants to kill all life!” Oh, sure, that sounds like a fabulous way to “win”. :/

                OTOH, stories aren’t always supposed to be realistic and an allegory is an allegory of what it is, not of whatever else someone wants to pretend that it is.

          2. If orcs are corrupted elves, OTHO, that means that don’t age and don’t go to Heaven/Hell. Meaning that the orcs who are around in the time of LOTR are some of the same orcs that Morgoth first bred back at the beginning of the world. I could see Morgoth’s programming being pretty hard to undo, even millenia after he was gone.

            My opinion was that yes, there are good orcs, but no, the hobbits were not likely to meet up with them on their trip. Most would probably be killed as soon as they first asked, “Hey, is there a particular reason why we want to kill all the elves and men? Are we maybe the bad guys?” And while I could buy a band escaping and trying to be on the side of light, I also doubt they would advertise their existence.

            It may not have been a good enough explanation for Tolkien, but it’s good enough for me.

        1. Some of this talk about the evil orcs killing the good orcs reminds me of a scene from the Canadian movie ‘Black Robes’, which covers the early Jesuit missions to the Indians. One old Huron tells the Jesuit that he is a good man and means well, but if his people followed his faith and stopped torturing their enemies, killing them whenever they find them, and rather showed mercy to them, they would all die. ‘Because no one will be afraid of us any more.’

          And we get told at the end of the movie that a few years after the Hurons converted, the Iroquois did precisely that.

    3. What I think is telling is the author reads about orcs and the images that come to his mind are blacks.

      Then he lectures us about how Tolkien was racist.

      I think the person who instantly equates orcs with any race is the racist.

  3. It’s not the first time that accusation has been raised.

    Kind of like the accusations I see that Dr Seuss was racist, with half of the cartoons they show to prove it were from during the war, and the other half anti-racist cartoons.

    Or using stills from “Der Furher’s Face” to show that Disney lied the Nazis.

    1. Yep. My responses to all of those is “who cares?”. They were written at a time different from ours and we shouldn’t condemn them for having values different from our own. Instead, we should learn from what they wrote, take the lessons–good and bad–to heart and move forward instead of trying to remove them from our memory.

      1. Amazing ain’t it though that folks have instant access to the knowledge of the ages at their fingertips yet insist on trying to relate everything to their perception of right now.
        They don’t read, they have no concept of real history, in other words ignorant and proud of it.

      2. Yeah, but the LEFT is hell-bent on re-writing history to make the past look like a unicorn-fart paradise. The fact that they erase the very evidence of just how bad it was being the reason why they fight to eliminate it today totally escapes them.

        1. I thought the modern Left spent most of their time arguing how awful it all was Back Then, so we have to create the Republic of Perfect Virtue (Perfect Virtue defined as ‘what matters me me the most right this moment)’ to get away from all that?

      3. I agree – same goes for any Confederate Monument. I am definitely from the North, and am against slavery, racism, and bigotry. BUT – those monuments were erected to remind people of what other people had accomplished and should be remembered for.

        Just because a few decades go by and values change does NOT invalidate the historical fact that so-and-so did such-and-such, and was highly regarded enough that people of his/her day and age felt it necessary to commemorate said deeds.

        This is why I strongly object to colorizing movies, remakes, or this PC crap flying around these days. It is ALTERING THE HISTORICAL RECORD – and those who cannot remember the past…”

    2. …or the nutters who write long theses on how racist the Charlie Chan movies were and how they denigrated Chinese…

      Yeah. Wealthy, successful, competent, and internationally famous, that’s RACIST!

      Odd, they haven’t targeted Peter Falk as Columbo yet. Obviously, the entire series was anti-Italisn racism…

      1. I have seen a few Charlie Chan movies. In one of them, set early in WW2, Chan’s Number One son is mentioned as being in the Army, and there’s a scene where Chan mocks a racist who assumes he’s there for the laundry.


        1. And that was the movies. The original books are about as non-racist as you could get in the period.

      2. But, Christopher, they have to be racist. After all, they didn’t have a Chinese actor playing a Chinese role. (that sound you hear are my eyes rolling out of my head, across the floor and being batted around by the cats.)

  4. Lost into the history memory hole: Although Texas City, Texas was segregated in the 1950s, my very Caucasian aunts and mother would have shunned me (at least) for a week, had I in a fit of bad behavior, used the word *nigger, even in private. Then again, my grandma, from Danzig/Gdansk environs, used *du Russe, you Russian, as the worst possible pejorative, with the exception of *faulpelz. Herself abhored laziness.

    1. My mother would have pulled me up short and quite possibly knocked some sense in my head had I used the word. But, when it was used (in books, movies, etc), we discussed it. We discussed it in the historical context and in the context of the time when I heard it. I learned that there were things acceptable in the past that aren’t acceptable now. I was raised to respect and remember “Never forget” because if we forget the past, we are doomed to repeat it.

      1. My grandmother would go on about how she never discriminated against other races; but was horrified to learn I’d taken a couple of black gals on dates. An Asian girl would have been okay, as long as she had a PhD and came from a “good” family; but why couldn’t I find a nice girl from around here (i.e. white.)

        I forget whatever I did to keep from falling out of my chair laughing at her.

        1. but was horrified to learn I’d taken a couple of black gals on dates.

          I was out on a “home teaching” assignment (back when I was still active LDS) and the family we were visiting said they could prove I was “racist.” Their proof was to ask me if I’d want my sister to marry “one”.

          They apparently didn’t appreciate when I shrugged and said “who she marries is her choice and none of my business.”

          1. Huh. The old foggies would probably dismiss it as being concerned for the difficulties the couple and their children would encounter.

            But never fear! Things have improved! /sarc

            There was a whole documentary recently about how racist white people who married black people were and the conclusion, more or less, that a white parent wasn’t able to be a good parent to a black child.

            Including at least one part about how a mixed race kid loved her mom so much until she went to college and learned not to.

            Frankly, I think this is one reason why the concept of “judgement” is so popular. You just want some people to have to answer for what they’ve done in a context where the consequences of their actions are fully revealed and they can’t pretend anymore that they were the Good Guys.

            1. I am waiting for that mindset of ‘mixed ethnicity marriages= racist’ to start biting them in the arse one day.

              Then again, these are the dimwits who conflate culture and religion with race/ethnicity. They’d more likely be shocked the person they’re making assumptions of victimhood on behalf of isn’t worshipping them in gratitude.

      2. Colored People is bad. People of Color is not. Go figure.

        I remember in the 70s that “negro” was the appropriate term; not so much today.

        Do memos come out updating this stuff?

        1. If there were memos you could keep up to date and do no wrong. Since the point is to make what you do wrong, memos would defeat it.

  5. My parents grew up in the Upper South (Arkansas and Oklahoma) between the Wars and my Dad managed several mixed race detachments during his navy career. I never remember him using the term ” nigger”, and he always emphasized that you judge everyone as indivduals and spacifically not by racial or class streotypes

    1. My father used the word. But only about certain people (black crackers, as it were, and the kind of lazy parasites Steppin Fetchit made a mint portraying). And he never used it to a Negro’s face.

  6. I had heard of Duncan a long time ago. I was buying the Golden Gryphon collections at the time, and he had one, Beluthahatchie. I’ve never read it. He won a Nebula for best novelette in 2013. I think I may have started that one and not finished.

    I’ve heard all the arguments on Tolkien and race before. I don’t care. Tolkien wrote fantasy in a different time, and I can handle that his ideas might be different than mine.

    1. How open minded of you. You must now report to the re-education camp for reprogramming. The line forms behind the rest of us here.

      1. OK, I admit I was wrong. It turns out I did read his first collection. I just don’t remember anything about it. But the book has clearly been read, and I had shelved it with some other Golden Gryphon collections I know I read because I remember reading them. Must have suppressed the memory of it.

  7. I saw he said something, and my only real reaction was “Never heard of this blithering idiot. He must be looking for publicity.” Because really that’s all his screed is about, getting his name in front of people in the hopes he gets a following.

    1. Yep. I wrote about him only because I am damned tired of the other side doing their best to tear down the great writers of yesterday who don’t meet their artificial “woke” levels today.

  8. Then there was an incident from many years ago when the NAACP wanted to ban reruns of the “Amos ‘n’ Andy” show from being shown on TV. The NAACP wanted to ban the show because it made black folks look like fools. My reply to that was, “If you were worried that Amos ‘n’ Andy made blacks look like fools, then the Three Stooges must make whites look like fools! Folks, lighten up, it’s just comedy!” And as comedy, Amos ‘n’ Andy was hilariously funny, especially with the “Kingfish” and Sapphire.


    1. There’s a British TV show called “Citizen Khan” about a Pakistani immigrant and his family. It’s basically “All in the Family” except with a Pakistani instead of Archie Bunker; Mr. Khan is bigoted, racist, stubborn, sneaky, and cheap, which are the things that get him into trouble in every episode…

      Of course “action groups” immediately materialized claiming the show was racist, there should be mass apologies, and of course it should be canceled. Which groups were countered by Pakistani immigrant groups who thought the show was hysterically funny and wanted more… the do-gooders were rather put out that the silly immigrants didn’t appreciate the efforts on their behalf.

  9. ‘Senator Bilbo’ is this parody in which you have this racist demagogue stomping around the world of the halflings, in a sort of desperate holding pattern to keep at bay all the change that is coming about as a result of what seems to have been the War of the Ring,”

    Seems like lots of folks are equating “change” with “good” these days. Don’t know why.

    1. Socialism is a probably a religion. Modern socialists are practically all Marxists. As a religion, Marxism is sorta of an animism of curves fit to cherrypicked ‘data’. A data science and as history, the curves that they primarily worship are complete garbage. They presume that all changes have desirable outcomes, hence more changes per unit time mean that their New Jerusalem will arrive sooner. This despite that most of them are not too mentally impaired for the following analysis.

      “There are black motorists in America who have not been pulled over and killed by the police. Thus we can say that pulling over black motorists and killing them is not a rule always followed by every policeman. In other words, it is not the current state. Which means that circumstances where that rule is always followed by every policeman would be a change from the current state. Would that be a desirable change?”

    2. Re: Change.

      I don’t see much about “change” that isn’t 100% about control. And no, objecting to control or to losing control is not objecting to “change”. Because we all well know that my “change” is not the same at all as your “change”.

      There’s another choice and that’s choosing NOT to try to control others, one way or another.

  10. You rarely if ever see Eddie Cantor movies anymore. You might encounter a book he wrote, or some of his singing, and perhaps his radio comedy. But not the movies, for there was always one Minstrel Show scene complete with ‘blackface’ which is Simply Not Done. But in Kid Millions there is a scene where he is preparing for that bit, putting on the black makeup… and commenting to the black servant, “You know, you’re lucky” and gets SUCH A LOOK. It might have been meant as comedic, and it was, but it was perhaps just a bit more. And now people are unlikely to see that scene.

  11. I vaguely recall reading the “Senator Bilbo” story in a Tolkien themed anthology once upon a very long time ago. I didn’t much care for it then, and that was back when I was still a liberal.

  12. “I’ll admit, my first reaction when I saw the allegation that Tolkien was racist–and against Orcs no less–I didn’t know whether to laugh or toss my iPad against the wall.”

    I saw this thing the other day, with the “racism against Orcs” and I didn’t even care enough to find out what the shit head said about it so I could mock it. One more asshole with no talent, taking down the Master for the feeeelz and to get some eyeballs on his own scribblings.

    I saw something else that was much more irritating, The Atlantic had an ode to the Peter S. Beagle book The Last Unicorn. It’s been 50 years, apparently, since Peter S. Beagle got that thing published.

    The Atlantic article, of course, sings the praises of the story. Blah blah blah. What it really is, is the same thing Andy Duncan is serving up. A cheesy, coarse mockery of Tolkien and high fantasy in general.

    Good of them to self-identify like that.

      1. He took all the hero and purtity tropes, turned them on their heads and called in some course language, is my recollection. I’m not going to say it was badly written at this distance, because I read it in the late 1970s and I don’t remember.

        But I do remember -detesting- the main characters and their actions, and wishing a nice big asteroid strike would take the lot of them. Spoiler, they all come to grief and live in misery at the end, but there’s no satisfying asteriod.

        One of the nice things I can do as an author these days is call down the thunderbolts of Jove on NPCs standing in for characters I have detested over the years. Beagle’s MCs deserve that, IMHO.

        1. Did you read a different book than I did? Because I recall the ending as being somewhat bittersweet, with the unicorn changed by her adventure, but the wizard and Molly Grue seemed to be doing well, and while Lir was heartbroken about the loss of his first love, there were strong hints that second love was on its way, running right behind him.

          1. I was perturbed by the MC ditching the unicorn. It was so crass. If you’re the hero you don’t ditch the unicorn, particularly when its the LAST one. I’m not a fan of “feet of clay” heroes.

            Everybody reads a different book. ~:D

            1. While I don’t need feet of clay heroes, having heroes with some identifiable human foibles I can relate to helps. If I want a hero with zero human faults, I’ll read the Gospels.

              1. Aragorn has human faults, and limitations. Which he overcomes, despite all.

                What I’m talking about is Aragorn abandoning the quest and skulking off to live in penury with some frowzy bar maid he just met. And everybody else doing the same thing.

                Even Sauron, who can’t quite be bothered to exert himself for a proper Apocalypse. He only manages a kind of tepid unpleasantness that kind of merges with the pre-existing overall Suckage.

                That was my experience of the Last Unicorn. YMMV.

            2. ….okay, I also need to point out that neither Schmendrick, Molly, OR Lir “ditch the Unicorn”…so I’m not sure which “Main Character” you mean. Are you sure you aren’t referring to “Ariel” by Stephen R. Boyette? Because that’s what it sounds like you’re describing.

          1. Okay, could be I’m wrong.

            Willing to admit I could have the wrong book. I remember course language.

            I plead the infirmity of age and my cranky nature.

            Somebody surely wrote some kind of unicorn story that hacked me off though, unless that was a different life and this is The Matrix.

            Backing down off my soapbox and slinking off to the bar.

        1. The Last Unicorn was, stylistically, an attempt to merge high fantasy, low fantasy, and picaresque adventure. It managed it about as well as one possibly could, and the ending was bittersweet. The only book that has done it better is Silverlock, but I think The Last Unicorn has more magic.

          There is no shame in bouncing off a book. But I beseech you to reconsider your judgment.

          1. “But I beseech you to reconsider your judgment.”

            Truthfully, I took the book as trolling Fantasy fans. Disrespectful.

            If the hero you’re looking for is Aragorn, the MC of The Last Unicorn is not that guy. Nobody in the book is that guy. They’re not even Harold Shea. Although, memory fades since high school. Could be I forgot a bit player who showed some steel.

    1. I would point out Beagle also wrote the forward to the first authorized PB version of the LotR in the US in which he lauded Tolkien and his creation.

      Beagle might not have written fantasy to your taste (I enjoyed TLU), but to claim he was trying to take down Tolkien is 180 degrees from available evidence.

    2. I have some points to make about Peter S. Beagle and ‘The Last Unicorn’…while you are free to like or dislike it as you wish, I feel compelled to state a few things.

      1) Back in the 1980s I received a boxed set of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ as a Christmas gift. (It was the editions with the Darrel K. Sweet covers.) The forward to the series was given by…Peter S. Beagle, who spoke with glowing praise and admiration for Tolkien and his work even as he had some very pointed, harsh words for the direction 20th century culture had taken (he believed in direct contradiction to Tolkien’s message.)

      2) Peter S. Beagle was a guest at Comic Con 2006 and I sat in the audience of his panel. Among other things, he went into great depth into the origins behind The Last Unicorn.

      It was first written as a post-apocalyptic tale about a unicorn in a world completely inhabited by demons (mankind having long since vanished) but that idea was going nowhere. But the more he wrote, the more he realized he really wanted to write a fairy tale.

      Not just a fairy tale, but one written in homage to the works of James Thurber’s very dry, very witty “fractured” fairy tales, yet also having the emotional poignancy and bittersweet bite of…of…it’s been many years and I’ve forgotten the name of the other author! But from what I recall, it was fairy tales written in the tone and style Hans Christian Anderson favored. Where yes, some of them ended unambiguously happy…but just as many end in regret, tragedy, or a very special, tender sort of melancholy.

      This combined with characters from bedtime stories he was telling his kids (this is where Schemdrick the magician came from) and favorite poems, plays, and jokes from his life at the time. (This is where the Butterfly came from.)

      I disagree strongly that the story ends in nothing but misery and loss. And Lir…he’s not the Main Character, but he’s definitely an important character.

      Mocking Tolkien and High Fantasy didn’t come into it…he was writing in a different subgenre. Not high fantasy, but fairy tale fantasy, which has very different rules and a very different tone.

      (Full disclosure, I reread the book last year.)

      1. …assuming you -are- actually referring to Stephen R. Boyette’s “Ariel”, that book definitely -does- mock Tolkien and has coarse language and Boyette himself has taken potshots at Tolkien. So I’m starting to think that’s the actual book you’re recalling. 🙂

        1. I’m willing to be wrong about the title and author, but not willing enough to go re-read it to make sure.

          Full disclosure, I read it as a teenager in the 1970s, and it pissed me off so bad I threw it away. One did not throw away books in my mother’s house in the 1970s, but I did. I’m pretty sure it was The Last Unicorn, but then I was pretty sure I had my keys the other day when I didn’t. 😡

          I looked up Ariel, what I found indicates a 2008 publishing? Not that one.

          So if I’m slandering Mr. Beagle unfairly, its because I’m old, bad tempered, crusty and can’t remember shit. Wouldn’t be the first time.

          1. Ariel was originally published in the late 80s. It was post-apoc with a young man winding up with a unicorn companion (who I always thought was his school friend raped and murdered early on in the magic coming back apoc).

            In the end he has sex with a female character and lost Ariel.

            I enjoyed it enough, but wouldn’t consider it a classic as I do the Lost Unicorn. Boyette went on to start a series that only got one book which was much more interesting. Then he disappeared only to show up in 2010 or so with a book in the Ariel universe which I never bothered reading. I have mostly read his rants about what happened to his raccoon universe series (the only book out was The Architect of Fate), but nothing he has said about Tolkien.

            I have to second that I don’t see misery at the end of TLU. Yes, the hero did lose the girl who turned out to be the titular character, but Schemdrick’s point about how that was important. It is what allowed Lir to be a great hero, because all great heroes must have great sorrows and Lir’s was to have loved a unicorn.

            I think that concept fits well with Tolkien and parallels Frodo at the very least. It also finds a home in Lewis’s “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” about the need for saints to have great sinners.

  13. When racist is defined so broadly that anyone can be a racist, it is defined so loosely that there is little purpose in seeking to avoid meeting the definition.

    1. Honestly, I think it’s all about letting certain people completely off the hook. Racism isn’t behavior, therefore no one need actually examine their own behavior. No self-reflection involved. Even “check your privilege” doesn’t require any self-reflection other than to catalog how wonderful you are. Follow that with a bit of ritual public confession and *poof* you’re done.

  14. Changing the language dramatically reduces the impact of Huck Finn’s statement, when he decides to help his black companion evade recapture with “Well, then I’ll just go to hell”.

  15. If that is how he feels, why doesn’t he write his own ORIGINAL work, showing how such an attitude is wrong?

    Because if you think the conventions of a genre could use shaking up, actually doing it is real work. Ask Michael Moorcock or Allen Moore.

    Of course, if you do the work you will often become another icon of the field that people a generation will decide to tear down, but you won’t get invited to the right parties tonight.

    Not that you’d go if you did. You’d be too busy working.

  16. Yawn. So someone thinks the orcs are racist because they’re Always Chaotic Evil. Gee, never heard that one before. It’s not like fantasy fans and Tolkien himself have been debating the subject since the book came out.

    I’m aware that there’s a certain type of speculative fiction writer that can never be happy unless they’re tearing down someone else while desperately trying to build themselves up, but Mr. Duncan should really stay out of the business until he can figure out something to say that wasn’t already done to death half a century ago.

  17. Oh, geez. I saw that headline and assumed it was a joke. I’m just surprised no-one’s gone after Peter Pan yet. (That I’ve heard of, anyway.)

  18. And yet fifty years from now, people will still be reading The Lord of the Rings and Mr. Duncan will likely be utterly forgotten.

  19. Duncan is getting more publicity over the past 48 hours than he’s ever gotten in his whole career. It sucks that we have to give him attention at all, but sometimes you have to counter crap before it becomes dominant.

    The good news is that after this week, his slide back into obscurity will hopefully begin.

    1. Someone publicly sticking their foot in their mouth always gets good press for a few days; until the next fool comes around and does it.

    1. I saw one where the Mother Superior is black. Not impossible, just highly unlikely, and quite jarring. I had a dreadful feeling that she’d been cast because the producers insisted on having non-whites in the cast, not for her singing or acting skills. Also, the boyfriend in “I am Sixteen (Going on Seventeen)” was much, much too old for the role. It gave that scene an uncomfortable tone. I’m not certain if this was the same production mentioned above or not.

      1. I have found that many American progressives have this delusion of European populations being as mixed as ours, (i.e. same proportion of minorities) and Europeans seem to have the same- our minorities are as rare as theirs are…

  20. People complaining about racism in fantasy make me want to throw them into the wall, not the book.

    What part of the word, “fantasy” don’t they understand?

    1. That just means it’s an ALLEGORY of Real Life, not actually about another world. Everything’s symbolic when it’s not realistic.

  21. There are two things I’m not seeing anyone take into account here, one natural and one not.

    “The Orcs were “established” to be nasty beings even to members of the same “tribe”.

    Such a species IMO could not exist in the real world.”

    Never looked at the actual dynamics of a wolf pack or a flock of chickens or tribal band of people for that matter? There’s a rigid dominance hierarchy and as long as none of them tries to break it the organization works. Ask the lowest level if life sucks and they might agree…. But if that lowest level can be convincingly told they are still better / entitled to dominate the Other, that channels the rebellion.

    And that leads us to the second factor, which I doubt even Tolkien fully explored: belief in a god or gods is a powerful reinforcement even when the gods aren’t seen acting visibly and directly (this world). How much more powerful is it when they ARE?

    David Weber shows that several times in his Bahzell books, where even the clergy / religious orders are disinclined to accept something…. until the deity or the deity’s agent shows up and demonstrates through actual exercise of power that “Yes, this is how things are.” And even if you don’t have Morgoth or Sauron showing up in person, you have lesser agents such as the Nazgul or other lesser people who are actually able to call on them and something happens. Do you really break THAT conditioning?

    1. The chickens and wolves do exist. But they do not exist among the orcish society. Remember Frodo and Sam escape once because of an intra-race murder.

    2. Hey, if I was an Orc and had one of the Nazgul show up, I would do what he said – those guys are scary!!!

  22. Earlier in this thread I had some harsh words about Peter S. Beagle and The Last Unicorn.

    As many have surmised, I had the wrong book. It was bothering me, so I went and looked into it. Yep. Wrong.

    Mea Culpa. I apologize to Mr. Beagle who I wrongly maligned.

      1. Thank you, ma’am. I figure it’s unlikely Mr. Beagle will hear of it, but there’s no reason to raise the level of BS on the internet by letting my mistake stand.

        As one of my characters is known to say, if all that gets hurt is your pride, its a good day. ~:D

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