I mentioned a few weeks back that the infamous Eye of Argon has had some expansion added to it recently. There was Grignyr the Ecordian, a edited re-telling of the original, and there was The Eye of Argon and the Further Adventures of Grignr the Barbarian. Post-holidays, I acquired both.
The guy who wrote this proceeded on the idea that within Eye of Argon is a functioning story made corkscrew by the undisciplined writing of a teenager. Others, such as Mythcreants, have pointed this out as well:
Just so I don’t have to contort logic to find some new and genuine praise for this passage, let’s zoom out and look at some big-picture stuff.
“I Tried to Praise The Eye of Argon and Ended Up With These Lousy Writing Lessons”, Mythcreants.com
- The narrative premise and perspective of the story has been very consistent so far. It doesn’t contain head hopping or other jarring perspective changes. In that aspect, The Eye of Argon is better written than Maximum Ride and Maze Runner.
- Information in the story is carefully introduced, telling readers what they need to know about current events without veering into excessive exposition dumps. In that aspect, The Eye of Argon is better written than Crescent City and The Tommyknockers.
- The story introduces its main character right after the first paragraph and, judging from what I’ve seen, sticks closely to relevant plot events after that. In that aspect, The Eye of Argon is better written than Sword of Shannara and Battlefield Earth.
- Problems and conflict are abundant in the portions we have covered. In that aspect, The Eye of Argon is better written than Tiger’s Curse and The Name of the Wind.
Thus, Grignyr the Ecordian amounts to a literary experiment, a rebuilding of the story on the bones of the original. Can it be done? I’ve read it, and it can. The story is a perfectly serviceable hack & slash adventure story. If you’d grabbed it off a gas station spinner in the 80’s and read it, you’d have felt you got your money’s worth, and @PulpArchivist would do a thread on it at some point. Overall: not bad; I’d like it better if it had a classic pulp cover, Frazetta-style:
The other tome, which I was the more excited about, turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. The Eye of Argon and the Further Adventures of Grignr the Barbarian is what prompted me to declare the existence of a “Grignr mythos”. Other stories told in the same universe, especially by other authors, seem to be the qualifying criterion for a “mythos” existing. I liked the idea of expanding Theis’ badly-written story into something that had entertainment power. The redemption of Jim Theis, who was an innocent kid abused by fantasy fandom, if you will.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be what the collaborators had in mind. Apparently they’re all veterans of the ongoing Eye of Argon comedy tour: dramatic readings and party games designed to grind laughter from the badness of the story. I’m not bothered by that existing (Eye of Argon is that bad); I am bothered by beating the joke to death. Parodying The Eye of Argon is beating the joke to death. Parody doesn’t work on something like Eye of Argon. You cannot parody something that is so ridiculous that it induces laughter all on its own. You’re just being that guy who can’t stop reciting Monty Python bits.
So, on one level, nothing here is intended to be taken seriously. But since Jim Theis had to endure decades of abuse for his adolescent errors, these stories deserve to be assessed.
Forthwith, the Further Adventures of Grignr the Barbarian:
- The Return of the Eye of Argon – Grignr fights a vampire, who is the master and owner of the Eye of Argon, which is back, baby! I almost stopped on the first page and didn’t finish it; later I did. It would be fine without the joke misspellings. Better than it appears at first glance (much better than Grignr and the Dragnr), and at least spares us the curse of half chapters, but overall this is the part where the disappointment set in.
- The Rat’s Tail – Prequel story about the rat Grignr kills. Unnecessary as all prequels are, and not a whole lot of fun, but it tamps down on the dumb parody, so I didn’t hate it.
- Grignr and the Dragnr – The most “LOLPARODY” story. Has a Chapter 11/2 . It’s actually more irritating to read than the original Eye of Argon. I’ve read things, fanfiction and the like, that are much worse than Eye of Argon. I’ve never read anything that congratulated itself for aiming to be worse than Eye of Argon, and succeeding. This is the literary equivalent of Sharknado. No, it’s worse than Sharknado. I can enjoy Sharknado in the right mood. This will never be enjoyable to anyone.
- Grignr in the land of Er-Urz – Meta, and just silly enough to work. The only one with a Chapter 11/2 that’s actually amusing. The most clever parody, in a “mild chuckle” kind of way.
- God Quest – Mild parody with one or two lines that deserve to be in a better story. If Return of the Eye of Argon set its disappointment in on the first page, then manages not to be agonizing, this story does the opposite: tricking you into thinking it might be good, and then boring the hell out of you. The action in particular is mind-numbing and a chore. Has a Chapter 11/2 , because of course it does.
- Grignr’s Swift Sword of Vengeance – Is doing fine, with tolerable levels of parody (not funny, but ignorable), but then it goes Enchanted – Grignr crosses over to our world and finds himself at a fantasy con. I hated this at first, as this plot device is a s a pet peeve of mine, but then Grignr takes his titular vengeance on all the nerds mocking his tale, and after everything I had worked through, that made me laugh. I’m calling it a win.
- Ounna’s Rock – The most satisfying story, overall: there’s an interesting plot and a good character dynamic. It has a Chapter 31/2 and several misspellings, but all that feels obligatory. I wanted all the stories to be this, and while I’m glad that it’s here, it just makes the other stories worse by comparison.
- Grignr and the Tomb of Really Bad Evil – Despite its title, this does not resort to cheap parody, obvious misspellings, half-chapters, or other shenanigans. Rather, it’s meta in a clever way: putting Grignr in a DnD dungeon crawl, with humor appropriate to that. This genuinely made me laugh and is the reason I kept reading after the initial disappointment set in (I started flipping through it and found this, at the end).
What is the result? Can a Grignr Mythos become a real thing, or is it doomed to forever remain a joke among nerds? I’m of a mind to write a Grignr story myself, in the vein of Ounna’s Rock, perhaps. I think the sweet spot is to find humor, while still treating the genre elements seriously. It would be an interesting attempt, at least. I shall ponder it upon the Tree of Woe.