Yesterday I finally saw the movie Stardust based on Niel Gaiman’s book with the same name. I did not like it very much but it is interesting to look at it from a creativity perspective. Gaiman has his own version of fantasy and just like Naomi Novik or Philip Pullman he manages to write original and imaginative stories by bringing in things we do not usually see in the genre. In other words it is writers like these that keep fantasy vital and today it is more popular and multifaceted than ever. It is constantly reinvented through new combinations and we can trace it backwards via genre intersections all the way to The Lord of the Rings. (Or, as some will argue, way further back than that.)
Tolkien in his turn created his groundbreaking trilogy by intersecting ancient mythology with the modern novel. Considering the impact it has had it is strange that is was not done earlier. It is also interesting that this innovative vision belonged to an extremely conservative scholar like Tolkien. Maybe the more experimental authors of the early twentieth century (and they were many) would not see the possibility of mixing experimental narration with archaic language; maybe visionary but old fashioned Tolkien was standing at an intersection nobody else could see?
Anyway, if we look at the development of western literature as a whole we will see that all the important leaps were taken at intersections between cultures, genres or ways of expression. The idea of putting stories in writing in the first place is usually seen as the invention of a rhapsod (storyteller) we know as Homer. 2700 years ago he intersected the Greek oral storytelling tradition with a concept that was quite new at the time – the alphabet.