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Fantasy and Science Fiction Medievalisms : From Isaac Asimov to A Game of Thrones

Cambria Press, 2015, 238 p.

Studies of popular genres illuminate social and cultural trends and concerns, while medievalisms reveal far more about the milieu in which they were created than they do about the Middle Ages. By exploring how popular genres develop, pulling on and being pushed by changing approaches to “the medieval,” this collection sheds light on twenty-first century popular culture’s dynamic and at times conflicting moves, and those of the society which creates and consumes it. Individual chapters take diverse approaches, both synchronic and diachronic, some offering detailed case studies and others broader reviews of themes and trends. The variety enables a detailed picture of the complexities of fantasy and science fiction medievalisms to emerge.

The first section explores the reception of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the two chapters together demonstrate that fantasy’s “Tolkienian” medievalism is not that of a single author, but of many readers and creators making and remaking it in different media. The second shows that the dark and dirty medievalism of Game and Thrones and the subgenre of gritty fantasy is complex and at times contradictory. It illustrates the impact of market trends and forces on popular culture texts and the ways they are understood to engage with the past. The third section demonstrates that medievalism has been at the heart of science fiction since the ‘Golden Age’ of the 1960s, and illustrates that use of medieval material and reference points connects it with fantasy as much as it separates the two genres. The final chapter shows that in the twenty-first century, fantasy definitions of medievalisms are expanding to include more than just references to the European Middle Ages which have long been conventional in the genre.

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