Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

By Steve Hansen

Fantasy reading not just for young


November 29, 2017

I think fantasy literature is supposed to appeal mostly to the young.

Being a retiree, however, does not stop me from being fascinated by what I consider the best of this kind of literature in print or on screen.

The holidays of “Miracle on 34th Street” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” are upon us, so I think it’s a good time to reflect on fantasy .

I got caught up in Middle Earth by reading the “Lord of the Rings” books by J.R.R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s lovingly executed and lavishly budgeted films of the three volumes.

I started reading George R.R. Martin’s “The Song of Fire and Ice” book series after watching several installments of the “Game of Thrones,” the spare-no-expense HBO television series based on Martin’s books.

There are two more book series in this vein for which I’m seeking cinematic justice.

One is the “Dune” series by Frank Herbert, which combines space travel with feudalism. This story was reduced to David Lynch’s brand of weirdness in a 1984 film and became a low-budget Sci-Fi Channel series in 2000.

I’d like to see a Peter Jackson-type series of films do justice to “Dune.”

The other book series has escaped cinematic abuse. It is soon to become a television series produced by Skybound Entertainment of “Walking Dead” fame. This is Roger Zelazny’s 10-book “Chronicles of Amber,” series, which spreads out a multi-dimensional universe around a fantasy kingdom called Amber.

The producers promise a rival in quality to “Game of Thrones.”

I’m almost done reading Zelazny’s series about reality-hopping noble beings who all speak plain American English.

Chronologically, Tolkien came first. He wrote “The Hobbit” as almost a children’s book, then decided adults could use a little fantasy, too

He then drew on his extensive scholarship in Nordic and Anglo-Saxon folklore to expand Middle Earth and produce the “Lord of the Rings” series.

Then came Zelazny, who wrote his “Amber” books between 1970 and 1991. A friend lent me the first of the series in the early 1970s, but I didn’t start reading the rest of the series until I spotted the second-to-last of the series in a used book store a couple of years ago. I found them all in one volume a few months ago in another used book store.

Martin claims Zelazny has influenced his “Song of Fire and Ice,” which he began in the 1990s. I think he was inspired more by Tolkien.

Martin’s take on medieval fantasy is populated by humans whose bodies, thoughts and actions are fully functional and very human. Tolkien had to stop short of that in the 1930s.

But all the authors make it fun with magic and mythical creatures.

The youngster who survives in me escapes into these fantasy worlds and wonders what it would be like to live there.

The realist in me, however, imagines being the authors who must live in their fantasy worlds while creating them and confronting the real-world challenges of publisher deadlines, mortgages and car insurance.

Steve Hansen writes about our life and times from his perspective of a retired Tucumcari journalist. Contact him at:




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