Episode 61
April 1, 2024

What Is It with Straight Men and Red Hair?

Hosted by Jared Pechaček, Ned Raggett, and Oriana Schwindt

Jared, Oriana and Ned discuss Ned’s choice of topic: Terry Brooks’s debut novel The Sword of Shannara. Released in 1977 after the author had been working on it for almost a decade, The Sword of Shannara became a massive publishing success for its then-new imprint Del Rey Books, helping to establish the viability of fantasy literature as a steady and profitable part of the book business as a whole, as well as starting Brooks’s continuing writing career with a bang. At the same time, more than a few voices said in response to that success and the book itself that it was pretty clearly using The Lord of the Rings as a model, its own author having now been conveniently dead for a few years at the time of publication. This, as it happens, is a massive understatement – and more to the point it is an absolutely awful book, the success of which seen through the eyes of nearly fifty years later is almost impossible to imagine given both the expansion of the field in general and the fact that Tolkien is no longer solely the lodestone for young writers to look towards. What makes Brooks’s work so remarkably un-Tolkien-like despite taking on many of its trappings, and are those trappings used well to start with? How does Brooks’s desire to create a rollicking adventure story/page-turner play out in terms of actual story dynamics, character development and other rather important things a good book should have? How do the key themes of Tolkien in general not apply – or rather, get heavily misapplied or transformed – in Brooks’s vision of a post-apocalyptic fantasy world? And do Jared and Oriana still wish Ned ill fortune for having made them read this? (Audibly so, yes.)

Show Notes.

Jared’s doodle. If only the book were this exciting.

Five years indeed! If you want the full story of how we all got started, as mentioned, Ned talks about that in the introduction to our live episode aka Episode 50 from last year.

The big news about The Collected Poems of J.R.R. Tolkien, as reported on by Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull, its editors.

The not-so-big, in fact really annoying, news about The Rings of Power Season 3 already being worked on. Lovely. Really.

The Sword of Shannara! It’s a book! Sure is a book!

Dan Sinykin’s 2023 Slate article “The Man Who Invented Fantasy,” which details Lester Del Rey’s career and role in bringing Brooks to wider attention as part of his overall plans for Del Rey with his wife Judy-Lynn. So now you know who to blame.

The Brothers Hildebrandt being recruited as the illustrators was a good move from a publishing point of view, especially then.

Gene Wolfe’s defense of Brooks is in his essay “The Best Introduction to the Mountains.”

Our Dennis McKiernan/Silver Call duology episode.

Our episode on the orcs. Gnomes they are not.

Brooks’s TED talk “Why I Write About Elves”.

You want to watch The Shannara Chronicles? Enjoy. Without us.

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