Thanks to Brian Niemeier and Daddy Warpig, I'd been reading posts on Robert E. Howard, Conan, and how the two Conan films sucked balls compared to Howard's stories. I'll address this wearing my writer hat at the Study later this week, but for now it's about this as a gamer and reader. First, some links:
- Rick Stump: Conan the Barbarian: A Review, an Analysis, and a Little Bit of a Misunderstood and Improperly Played - While Talking About the Pulps. This is the post that kicked off today's round of pro-pulp talk, as it digs into the films vs. the pulp stories.
- The Pulp Archivist: Don't Split the Party: Conan's Motivations, linking to the above and giving his take, which includes this gem:
The best lit crit and the clearest voices telling why the old tales entertained so well was not being done inside the SFF community.
You want to know why so many films, series, books, and comics are shit now? In addition to SocJus dogma, they all glommed on to Joseph Campbell's Monomyth theory and turned it into the One Plot. Like the One Ring, it yearns to bring all narrative into its dominion and bind all to is will. Entertainment media is a business, and like any other it seeks to minimize risk; if they can find a way to reduce costs and risk, they'll take it and that's what happened starting with Campbell's adoption by George Lucas (and his peers) in that decade.
And yes, this shit is all over gaming now. It has been for years, as both vidya and tabletop took their cues from the very popular media whose narrative structure devolved into the One Plot and replaced the exciting and stimulating virtual experience driving by "You're in this situation. What do you do?" with incompetent adaptations of The One Plot.
It also makes, in time, for boring reads. The One Plot reduces literature to grey goo, a memetic gruel that barely qualifies as readable, but not truly satifying or nourishing. It rewards lazy writing by mediocre writers and equally incompetent editors and publishers, making such easy for predatory parties to target and overtake for their own ends. Meanwhile, the audience diminishes with the deliverance of satisfaction.
The same is true in gaming, which is why we've seen one franchise after the next degenerate until it shits itself to death like Elvis did. Yet, because the industry as a whole hasn't collapse yet from the hollowing process that the dominance of The One Plot inflicts (in part due to picking pre-existing properties that properly employ it for adaptation), the inertia in the institution has become an avalanche that cannot be ignored. It is not surprising, therefore, to see the smaller players and independent actors be the vanguard of things like the Old School Renaissance in tabletop RPGs and the Pulp Revolution in SF/F.
If Campbell's shadow is to be put down, this is how it has to start: by properly putting the Monomyth back into its rightful context, and then using the liberated liminal space to return other narrative forms back to popular prominence. Quarantine what cannot be saved, let that burn out, and then come in to cleanse and rebuild.