The winners are in each category:
George R.R. Martin (modern)
Ability to inspire, to thrill and excite
George R.R. Martin (modern)
Consistency in plot, writing
George R.R. Martin
I don’t want to seem like a George R.R. Martin basher because he is a very good writer and translates well on to the screen – I just don’t like modern fantasy very much. I can read Tim Powers for example but to me it’s pygmies sitting on the shoulders of giants. I probably don’t like the modern world either and it reflects on my liking of all things modern, including writing.
I’d like to use Brackett as the floating point, the only female among these writers. I enjoyed the Martian Brackett more than her Skaith novels. I thought that they were very good, and at times really great. Having looked her up on wikipedia I fond she was an athletic tomboy and that’s no surprise. Ultimate respect to a woman working and excelling in a man’s world. I would have loved to meet her and I’m fairly certain she would have pasted me at volleyball.
In The Sword of Rhiannon, Brackett’s archaeologist Matt Carse enters the forgotten tomb of the Martian god Rhiannon and plunges into the Red Planet’s past. Vast oceans cover the land, legendary Sea-Kings rule from terraced palaces, there are heroes, anti heroines, slaves and loads of minor characters carrying swords and scowls around: In short, all the required elements for the juvenile mind. The language is at times superb, the pacing is great, the plotting accurate and my only criticism is really quite simple: Despite being an athletic tomboy Brackett was not a man. Ah ha you say – Politically incorrect, knuckle dragging chauvinist reveals inner soul. How can I state this offensive garbage when Brackett was more thoroughly steeped in the mores of American society – a friend of Bradbury and a lover of E.R. Burroughs – closer to the source of all this sword and sorcery fantasy than I will ever be?
The answer is quite simple and I rest my case with a paper called ‘Gender, Genre, and Writing Style in Formal Written Text’ in ‘Text & Talk’ Ed. Sarangi, Srikant.
The paper explores differences between male and female writing in a large subset of the British National Corpus covering a range of Genres in both fiction and non fiction. They found significant differences between male and female writing
I’m sure you don’t want to go too deeply into the paper but in simple terms the total number of nominals used by male and female authors is virtually identical but females use many more pronouns and males use many more noun specifiers. Also females exhibit greater usage of features identified by previous researchers as “involved”. Males exhibit greater usage of features which have been identified as “informational”.
It comes down to this: A female is likely to use ‘she’ and ‘her’ significantly more than a male writer. She’s also likely to go into reasons and emotions while a man, simple little fellow that he is, is likely to just tell you something straight.
On a more personal and intuitive level (I have intuitions) I noticed that while Brackett was superb in her description of certain aspects of war and savagery, when it actually came to fighting she lacked the Conan factor. I cannot recall a single example of Brackett reveling in the slaughter of hapless enemies or the delight in skewering someone on a sword.
This genuinely may have something to do with the functional parts of male and female anatomy and the influence this has on the more elevated thoughts in the unconscious. So, as a simple bloke if I was ever cast into one of these fantasy worlds and handed a sword I have no doubt that rather than swirl it above my head and shout ‘tally ho where is the heroine?’ I would lie down on the ground and cry in abject fear. However, in reading a fantasy novel I want the opponents to be ruthlessly slaughtered. Brackett just doesn’t want this, most likely because she’s a decent person and a girl.
In any case, Brackett – excellent genre authoress but not Howard or Burroughs.