I Am NOT Harlan Ellison

    “I am NOT Harlan Ellison”

    It was on a strangely warm day in January, while coming home from picking up a new volume of Ellison stories (which I will no doubt use to induce insomnia, regardless of my best intentions), that I came up with the subject and hook for this issue’s column.

    I want to be very clear on this: I am NOT Harlan Ellison.

    That’s right…some of you might have noticed that Harlan Ellison has had a great influence on my non-fiction; indeed, Garwulf’s Corner frequently bears a superficial resemblance to Ellison’s column “An Edge in my Voice.” However, what I take from Ellison’s work I use because it is an overall good idea, not because I am a shameless imitator.

    But that won’t stop some people. I have no doubt that somewhere there is a moronic Internet critic who has been reading my column, and has remarked to his companions and readers that I am a successor to Harlan Ellison. If I ever find this person, it will take him weeks to die.

    Honestly, it seems that the critical world has lost a great deal. I can’t count the number of authors who are toted as “Tolkien’s successor,” despite the fact that their work bears absolutely no similarity to anything the Grandmaster ever wrote. A recent issue of Fantasy and Science Fiction had an ad for Winter’s Heart, by Robert Jordan, with a quote from the New York Times that read: “Jordan has come to dominate the world Tolkien began to reveal.” Besides being meaningless (if you can work out what it means, you’re doing better than I am), it’s just plain WRONG. I’ve read some of Robert Jordan’s work; he bears no resemblance to Tolkien.

    But, for some strange reason, people don’t want to allow Robert Jordan to just be Robert Jordan. I may not be one of his fans (gigantic all-consuming series with volumes the size of small countries simply aren’t my thing), but I will certainly acknowledge that he is unique, and telling a story using his own style.

    It really is quite annoying. My favorite author, Dennis McKiernan, has also been called a Tolkien successor. His work is excellent, but it is much different than Tolkien. Dennis may use Elves, but if his Elves and Tolkien’s Elves ever met, they would wonder if they were the same species. Again, I pose the question: why can’t Dennis L. McKiernan just be Dennis L. McKiernan. Why can’t these critics, who seem to have nothing better to do with their time than compare new fantasies to old ones, actually acknowledge that there might be something unique?

    Let’s get angry, shall we? And now let’s turn to something a bit more electronic in nature: “Diablo-killers.”

    (Note to editor: You see? There really is something relevant in this column. So, you can put the shotgun down now. Really.)

    Diablo II is an exceptional game, just like its predecessor. Instead of using the usual formula, Blizzard went out and did something new. And, because it was first off the mark, the critics have acknowledged that it is unique.

    Having done that, there were a host of imitators. Rather than saying that they were “inspired by Diablo,” they are quaintly named “Diablo-killers.” God forbid that these new games should actually try to do something different! No matter what, regardless of if it is Darkstone or Nox, the label is the same. It’s almost as if Diablo, having been successful, has committed some sort of strange crime, and all of these games have to go and destroy it by being a better Diablo than Diablo. At least, that is the way the critics seem to see it.

    It’s sickening. It really is. To make matters worse, just when it seems that some innovation in the market is about to be recognized, that game designers are going to be praised for taking something like real-time role playing and doing something unique, some bored critic with the imagination of an grapefruit comes along and labels it, forever casting it into the shadows of a game bearing it only the most superficial resemblance.

    To those critics I say this: Let Nox be Nox. Let Darkstone be Darkstone. Rather than calling them “Diablo-killers,” call them something that actually gives them credit. Describe them in their own terms, rather than in relation to some other game. Do them credit for a change, rather than falling back on your own limited imagination and memory.

    But, just as I know that my work will eventually be compared to Harlan Ellison, Dennis McKiernan, and J.R.R. Tolkien, no matter how hard I try to be unique, I also know that any new real-time role playing game will still be compared to Diablo, even if it is set in the future and features space aliens. I guess I can only keep up my own private battle, forever vigilant to make certain that one fact is clear for all time:

    I am NOT Harlan Ellison, Dennis McKiernan, or J.R.R. Tolkien. I am Robert B. Marks; nothing more, nothing less.

    Next issue: Staring at the Ladder, where your author gets whiplash watching the action after the ladder reset.

    Disclaimer: Garwulf’s Corner was written by Robert B. Marks and hosted by Diii.net. The views expressed in this column are those of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of Diii.net.

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