January 21, 2020, 05:01:11 AM

Author Topic: Epic Fantasy, has it become stagnant or is it still growing?  (Read 3625 times)

Offline Peat

Re: Epic Fantasy, has it become stagnant or is it still growing?
« Reply #30 on: July 22, 2017, 04:08:52 PM »
I hope that SFF world will begin to move away from big generalised labels like epic, because I actively dislike setting more than basic rules or needing tight definitions on genres or sub genres or sub sub etc.  It can so easily result in dismissal of books because they are assumed to belong to a stereotype. For example, Paranormal and Steampunk already suffer from misconceptions of what to expect.

This aversion to rules set in for me way back when "literary" critics were so smug and arrogant about SFF not being worth counting as their precious literary. Then along came Station Eleven, nominated and winning the Arthur C Clarke award. The author and critics, all getting quite het up and nasty, saying they didn't think of it as SF, more literary fiction, because there was no fictional technology present. Couldn't possibly be literary as well as SF could it? Closed minds, unimaginative protective thinking.  >:(

Rant over, but I do feel it is repressing to narrow down definitions, although I understand from a writer's POV that classifying within a genre will affect where & how it is marketed.

Logically, I near-completely agree with you. But emotionally? I guess emotionally I like classification, I like prodding at whether this difference matters more than this similarity. I find it fun, perverse creature that I am.

But... where I do think it is logically still important is that a lot of fans do notice the labels, consciously or not, and do form expectations of what a book will be based on them, consciously or not. Writers can get a lot of mileage out of knowing how to play with those expectations.

And since readers do notice the labels, it does give them an effective shorthand of communicating the broad strokes of a book to each other. Or at least, its effective when people have the same genre definitions!


I think for me Epic has to have an Epic scope *somewhere*, but it doesn't have to be everywhere. But I can never really define the genre beyond that. When you look at some of the things referred to as Epic, it sometimes feel like pretty much anything can be in there.


I checked City of Stairs and it has more Mystery classifications than Urban Fantasy (how it's mostly marketed). It's actually how the story starts, apparently in all three books, as a murder mystery that slowly grows in scope although it doesn't reach the "traditional" definition of Epic. Mainly because pretty much nobody even knows there's a danger or that the world was saved. No rallying cry, no big "let's unite!" moment, etc.

I'd never have though to peg it as urban fantasy oddly enough - guess my mind automatically goes to the whole real world modern city type of UF. But yeah, its a mystery first and foremost. An Epic Mystery? Mebbe, but I'm not sure I'm feeling this myself though.

Epic Mystery should be a thing though. This whole conversation has made me want to do an Epic Fantasy based around a squad of police recruits in a gargantuan island city, connected to the rest of the world (Or universe?) by tunnels, where the big bad is a crime boss (unknown before they stumble upon him through a seemingly minor crime) who actually turns out to be this Vivec/Lucifer type god who at first seems to be hiding the city so he can feast on the souls all to himself, but then is doing it to protect the city and needs the souls to keep doing it, and taking down the monster means working out how else to protect the city first.

If someone could lend me their life so I can write this as well as everything else that would be awesome.

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As time passes we probably will see more and more stories that mix elements of a lot of subgenres, which is good, but I still believe that every story, even if borrows elements of a lot of genres, has one that is its core. It's hard to "quantify" it, but I guess we can kinda of feel it when reading.

Probably right there, although I know I've had arguments with people where I've felt one genre and they've felt another (and there's a few where I'm like "Is this Heroic or is this Epic" where the answer is probably both). Actually, I'd go with books that really do sit squarely in two subgenres being where a new subgenre is born.

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As for the link, I actually never thought about this, showing the villain before the hero to establish a danger or overall tone. His Batman examples were pretty spot on.
It's also interesting he says they do this before the start of the "traditional hero journey". he doesn't say, as he seems focused on movies, but it's a good tip for writing books as well, mainly how to do good prologues.

Yeah, there's a lot of book prologues that do this. SoIaF as mentioned. Wheel of Time does it, a lot of Feist's books do it, in a way Harry Potter does it, Eddings does it by sticking a bunch of history in at the start, Gardens of the Moon does it... I think it works better as a movie device, but yeah, does work well with prologues.
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Offline Revan

Re: Epic Fantasy, has it become stagnant or is it still growing?
« Reply #31 on: July 22, 2017, 04:20:48 PM »
Epic Fantasy is almost always a "save the world" quest. Even happens when books that start small start to grow in scale.
It's also a case of "the journey is more important than the destination" because I have yet to see a single story of the kind that the world is actually destroyed, so the final outcome is predictable, so you just want to know how they do it (the sacrifices, relationships established, tension for losses or relief of getting away with it, etc).

Now I want to write one where the world is destroyed, but that would happen somewhere in the middle of the series, and then the rest of the series would involve putting things back together.

There is actually an epic fantasy saga where the world is destroyed. Kind of. On the context of LotR, the saga ends the moment where Sauron gets the ring. Basically, the entire saga is about not allowing the return of a bad God in the world, and by the end of it, he returns and the saga ends.

Now unless the author decides to continue it, but even in that case, I think it will be a very nihilistic ending anyway. And for that saga, the ending made perfect sense.

Offline Eclipse

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Re: Epic Fantasy, has it become stagnant or is it still growing?
« Reply #32 on: December 10, 2019, 11:02:07 AM »
Epic Fantasy still alive and kicking  ;)
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Offline Matthew

Re: Epic Fantasy, has it become stagnant or is it still growing?
« Reply #33 on: December 10, 2019, 02:18:43 PM »
Epic Fantasy still alive and kicking  ;)

A lot of people are drawn into the various fantasy sub-genres (YA and urban fantasy etc). They service the same itch with tight plots and a more fast paced style (to suit our constant need for stimulation).

That and readers are more likely to wait for a complete work to be released before diving in, which in turn makes it harder to get an epic out into the world (from the publisher standpoint of low initial sales).

Offline Bender

Re: Epic Fantasy, has it become stagnant or is it still growing?
« Reply #34 on: December 10, 2019, 03:48:30 PM »
Success of Brandon Sanderson's books prove it still alive and kicking. Epic save the world, multi book unfinished series....and yet, it's popular as hot cake.

ASOIAF and GRRM kinda made the "bad if unfinished series" into a mainstream view, which is unwarranted.
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Offline Matthew

Re: Epic Fantasy, has it become stagnant or is it still growing?
« Reply #35 on: December 10, 2019, 06:08:15 PM »
Success of Brandon Sanderson's books prove it still alive and kicking. Epic save the world, multi book unfinished series....and yet, it's popular as hot cake.

ASOIAF and GRRM kinda made the "bad if unfinished series" into a mainstream view, which is unwarranted.

There's an interview with Sanderson where he talks about how epic fantasy was on a downswing when he was coming up and credits his decision to write Elantris as a standalone as what got him in the door. He wrote Mistborn and a few other books before he even got into his big epic (as an already established author).

You also need to remember that he writes a lot of different stuff including children's, YA, traditional fantasy, epics, etc and does so across a range of 'formats' with some designed as truly long running epics and others as trilogies or flat out standalones or novellas.

He was also one of the pioneers of the hard magic systems that helped distinguish him from other established authors.

As to the unfinished thing, there's other examples besides ASoIaF. We've been waiting for Door of Stone for so long now I mostly don't believe it'll come out at all before his fame fades and he needs an ego boost. Other series don't get finished due to publishers cancelling them or sickness and deaths etc. It's just a safer bet to wait for them to be complete (and I prefer to read trilogies back to back for maximum immersion).
« Last Edit: December 10, 2019, 06:20:46 PM by Matthew »

Offline The Sword in the Tome

Re: Epic Fantasy, has it become stagnant or is it still growing?
« Reply #36 on: December 10, 2019, 06:29:02 PM »
You also need to remember that he writes a lot of different stuff including children's, YA, traditional fantasy, epics, etc and does so across a range of 'formats' with some designed as truly long running epics and others as trilogies or flat out standalones or novellas.
What do you mean by 'traditional fantasy'?
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Offline Matthew

Re: Epic Fantasy, has it become stagnant or is it still growing?
« Reply #37 on: December 10, 2019, 07:02:52 PM »
You also need to remember that he writes a lot of different stuff including children's, YA, traditional fantasy, epics, etc and does so across a range of 'formats' with some designed as truly long running epics and others as trilogies or flat out standalones or novellas.
What do you mean by 'traditional fantasy'?

In this context I'd say his Mistborn series was the traditional one. Made as a trilogy, good vs evil, aimed mainly at adult readers, more emphasis on politics and the historical world building (how deep the author goes into the past if you will) than you tend to see in anything like YA.

I'll admit that the definitions for general terms like traditional are vague at best and it might not have been the best word choice, but as far as his body of work is concerned I'd stand by it.

For the epic genre I would say the same but MORE, like his Stormlight ones. For me epic fantasy is mostly the same as traditional but over a longer arc (ASoIaF, WoT, Malazan, etc). So I'd also consider things like LotR to be traditional. Guess it depends on your viewpoint though.

Either way, my point is that he was already an established author before he penned his epic and that it's much harder for new authors to break in using an epic series without prior acclaim (not impossible but I can't think of any I've heard about in the last few years).

Offline The Sword in the Tome

Re: Epic Fantasy, has it become stagnant or is it still growing?
« Reply #38 on: December 10, 2019, 07:14:24 PM »
For the epic genre I would say the same but MORE, like his Stormlight ones. For me epic fantasy is mostly the same as traditional but over a longer arc (ASoIaF, WoT, Malazan, etc). So I'd also consider things like LotR to be traditional. Guess it depends on your viewpoint though.
Fair enough.  I do happen to have a different viewpoint though, as I consider standalone books like Tigana and Elantris "epic fantasy".
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Offline Matthew

Re: Epic Fantasy, has it become stagnant or is it still growing?
« Reply #39 on: December 10, 2019, 08:17:59 PM »
For the epic genre I would say the same but MORE, like his Stormlight ones. For me epic fantasy is mostly the same as traditional but over a longer arc (ASoIaF, WoT, Malazan, etc). So I'd also consider things like LotR to be traditional. Guess it depends on your viewpoint though.
Fair enough.  I do happen to have a different viewpoint though, as I consider standalone books like Tigana and Elantris "epic fantasy".

I'm not sure about Tigana as it's been stuck on my TBR pile for years. It does have the 'feel' of being an epic from what I've heard about it's themes and stuff. With it being a standalone I could consider it a sort of hybrid, an epic tale told in a condensed way (although still a very long book). I suppose that could work since it's not (I'm assuming) split into lots of little arcs and just focuses on getting the epic done without the filler?

I will argue that Elantris doesn't even seem to be considered an epic by the Sanderson himself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSM1qNb2Ot8 About 51 minutes in is where he talks about how he got into the business with the self contained 'fantasy' standalone. It's pretty rambly though so  I might be missing his point.

Offline Bender

Re: Epic Fantasy, has it become stagnant or is it still growing?
« Reply #40 on: December 10, 2019, 08:30:14 PM »
Sanderson was just an example. Assasin's Fate, Book of Ancestor, Broken Earth, Lightbringer etc etc are all epic fantasy books and it's been as active as anyway in past two decades. And all are popular. I still don't get why the genre was considered as not popular anymore.
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Offline The Sword in the Tome

Re: Epic Fantasy, has it become stagnant or is it still growing?
« Reply #41 on: December 10, 2019, 09:12:27 PM »
I will argue that Elantris doesn't even seem to be considered an epic by the Sanderson himself.
Sanderson calls Elantris a standalone epic fantasy book 10 minutes into this video: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=WXMASMvwqUg
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Offline cupiscent

Re: Epic Fantasy, has it become stagnant or is it still growing?
« Reply #42 on: December 11, 2019, 02:36:48 AM »
I guess personally I'd just break it down as "epic fantasy" concerns fates of nations or similar. I am increasingly less interested in this sort of fantasy. I am--or I should say, I remain, since my comments from a couple years ago above indicate I felt similarly then :)--primarily interested in character-driven stories, and epic fantasy is usually plot plot plottity plot. It's rare to find one that gives good character. (I would say Abercrombie is an exception here. Also Daniel Abraham. Lynch too, but I could ruminate extensively on whether he deserves to be called "epic".)

But I also stand by my comments above to the end that I think the genre as a whole is far richer for containing multitudes.

Offline Elfy

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Re: Epic Fantasy, has it become stagnant or is it still growing?
« Reply #43 on: December 11, 2019, 05:55:58 AM »
I guess personally I'd just break it down as "epic fantasy" concerns fates of nations or similar. I am increasingly less interested in this sort of fantasy. I am--or I should say, I remain, since my comments from a couple years ago above indicate I felt similarly then :)--primarily interested in character-driven stories, and epic fantasy is usually plot plot plottity plot. It's rare to find one that gives good character. (I would say Abercrombie is an exception here. Also Daniel Abraham. Lynch too, but I could ruminate extensively on whether he deserves to be called "epic".)

But I also stand by my comments above to the end that I think the genre as a whole is far richer for containing multitudes.
It’s odd that you say that about Lynch. One of the many things I love about Lies is that it’s not for all the marbles, like so many others out there, are.

Offline cupiscent

Re: Epic Fantasy, has it become stagnant or is it still growing?
« Reply #44 on: December 11, 2019, 07:16:24 AM »
It’s odd that you say that about Lynch. One of the many things I love about Lies is that it’s not for all the marbles, like so many others out there, are.

I agree, and it's one of the things I like about the books as well, but I suspect--with the conclusion of the third book--that a lot more marbles are going to be put into play. It's going to be interesting to see how book 4 develops.