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Author Topic: The Future of Fantasy  (Read 18207 times)

Offline Yora

Re: The Future of Fantasy
« Reply #45 on: May 01, 2015, 05:41:07 PM »
Genres that don't have that problem are Sword & Sorcery, Planetary Romance, Space Opera, and Cyberpunk.
I'm not sure I agree. I see Sword & Sorcery as a setting, not a subgenre. It is the setting where most Epic Fantasy and Heroic Fantasy stories take place, along with other similar things that don't quite fit into either box.
No. In this particular case we have the big advantage of knowing who created the term, what he meant by that, and for what purpose he did it. Howard, Leiber, and Moorcock are widely considered to be the archetypical Sword & Sorcery writers because that is what Moorcock and Leiber intended by staking out a genre and which Leiber proposed should be called Sword & Sorcery. (Ironically, Moorcocks first idea was to call it Epic Fantasy, a term that now is usually used to refer to the complete opposite. Highlighting how arbitrary this naming convention is.) Leiber said "It strikes me (and something might be made of this) that Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser are at the opposite extreme from the heroes of Tolkien." and “The best pulp Sword and Sorcery writer was Robert E. Howard”.
The definition of Sword & Sorcery is: a.) Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, b.) the opposite of Tolkien, and c.) Robert Howard. And since he also came up with the term in reply to Moorcocks suggestion that they should find a name for their style of fantasy, that implicitly includes Moorcock as well.

There certainly is a certain downside to it. Once you create a (somewhat) hard definition for it, it becomes presciptive instead of descriptive. Not only can this lead to derrivative copies of old stories that only go through the paces, it actually did happen with Sword & Sorcery in the late 70s and early 80s. Which certainly plays a part in Sword & Sorcery having a reputation of trash even among fantasy fans (because a lot of it was).

But terms like Epic Fantasy, Low Fantasy, High Fantasy, and Dark Fantasy are completely pointless because nobody ever really established what they are supposed to mean. With Cyberpunk, at the very least everyone can agree on "William Gibson is cyberpunk". Just like we can say "Howard, Leiber, and Moorcock are Sword & Sorcery". That's not a lot, since it can be very subjective what any one person would consider to be "like Gibson" or "like Howard".
But for the Something Fantasy genres, we don't have even that. You won't have any problem finding a quote of at least someone calling The Lord of the Rings either Epic, Heroic, High, and Low fantasy. And that's not because that book is so extremely multidimensional, but because those "genres" don't really have any meaning.

The name of a genre should include some clues of what you're expected to find inside. "Sword & Sorcery" has swords and sorcery, which is indicative of a focus on combat and the supernatural. Swords and sorcery both appear in The Lord of the Rings, but neither are what the story is about. "Cyberpunk" tells us that it has to do with computers and rebellious urban culture. When you look at "Space Opera" we can expect that it is set in space (not all sci-fi is) and that it aims for pathos and is set on a "big stage". "Planetary Romance" isn't self explainatory, but it still tells us that it has something to do with planets (and not Earth, because that would not be worth mentioning) and is also romantic. Which in this case refers not to love stories but Romanticism, but once you know that it narrows the possibilities down a lot.

In contrast, what do the words "Epic" and "Heroic" tells us. "Epic" indicates that it deals with far reaching events of historic importance (which is still somewhat useful) but "Heroic" just says it's about a hero. Well, what fiction isn't? And "High" and "Low" don't tell us anything. And "Dark"? Lord of the Ring often gets very dark for long stretches.
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Offline DrNefario

Re: The Future of Fantasy
« Reply #46 on: May 01, 2015, 07:57:13 PM »
I never liked High and Low as names because of the implied value judgement. I also really dislike Hard vs Soft SF, since I don't think anyone ever means Soft to be a good thing.

I have felt that the more recent Heroic/Epic distinction was a bit better, but a lot of big books do tend to include a bit of everything, and if there's one thing fantasy does have, it's big books.

I guess my problem with S&S as a genre label is that I don't think it really holds outside Robert E Howard. At a superficial level it seems to mean short fantasy. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser seem to belong to a sort of "rogue" school of fantasy, with Locke Lamora and all those assassins you see all over the place nowadays. I guess there is some of that in Conan, too, but I don't see it in Moorcock. I know you had another thread on this subject, though, so maybe I'll just drop it.

I guess I feel that there is a thing that Heroic and Epic (and S&S if you like) have in common with each other that they don't have in common with UF or Contemporary Fantasy, and that is the mediaevalesque secondary world with magic and swords and quite often dragons.

Offline Yora

Re: The Future of Fantasy
« Reply #47 on: May 01, 2015, 09:38:38 PM »
It seems to be a pretty common problem that lots of people have concepts of genres that are defined by the elements that are included in the major famous works instead of the themes and subjects of the stories.

The reason why now have something that could be called "standard fantasy" (humans, elves, dwarves, orcs, and a dark lord) is that people simply copied the ingredients that Tolkien used in his stories without giving much thought to why he chose to use them. Similarly, lots of people break down Sword & Sorcery to "Bronze Age city states with a barbarian who kills monsters and evil sorcerers" or Cyberpunk to "People with leather jackets, dyed hair, and wires coming out of their nose waving around huge guns". But that's not what Howard and Gibson were writing about. A bowl with flour, water, milk, and sugar is not the same thing as a cake.
And in that light it's not too weird when Sword & Sorcery or Cyberpunk can be thought of as "settings". They become settings when they are reduced to stereotypes. Because it's the stereotypes that do everything the same way.

Good writers use the elements of their setting to say something. If they are really good they don't preach it, but they still have some ideas or concepts which they showcase through their stories. Those ideas and the style of presenting those ideas is the true essence of a genre. And unfortnately that is something people very rarely talk about when discussing genres.
Instead we often get "If you like George Martin, you probably like this" or "If you like Abercrombie, you probably like this".

In my perception, as the sheer amount of really good and famous fantasy books increases over time (not per year, it just accumulates over the decades) and people try to not do the same things others did before, the original subgenres are blurring together. Even if you don't use the questionable terms most commonly used, the contrast between different styles becomes less clear and people are writing less prescriptive.
That makes talking about different books complicated. Since I have not read either Martin or Abercrombie, the statement that a given book is similar like their books doesn't tell me anything. To drag the same old example from behind the stoove for the umpteenth time (because it's the one I know well), the statement "This book is a lot like de Camp" doesn't tell me anything because I never read de Camp. Instead saying, "this book is a lot like de Camp, Howard, Leiber, Wagner, Moorcock, Moore, Chaunders" would help me a lot, because I read half of them. But it's impractical to recite that whole list any time, so it's very useful to have a single short term that references that list. Sword & Sorcery can be that term.
And I think fantasy could really benefit from people discussing possible terms to name these "neighbourhoods of comparable writers". Like we have "Wuxia" or "Superhero" or "Paranormal Romance".
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Offline Francis Knight

Re: The Future of Fantasy
« Reply #48 on: May 01, 2015, 11:42:22 PM »
The future of fantasy?

Wherever the minds of fantasy writers take us

To be picked up by a Big Five, yes, you'll need to know what the market is, but also see what the market wants right now (or rather a year from now)

And also to write the book you want to write. Read the books that excite you. Because that is exactly what editors do -- find the books that excite them (they may then have to pass due to sales/marketing, but they are looking for a book that excites them)
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Offline Elfy

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Re: The Future of Fantasy
« Reply #49 on: May 02, 2015, 12:46:48 AM »
The quote is quite funny as @Overlord is a fan of Jim Butcher Dresden files isn't he ?
I think the date of that quote needs to be looked at. It was posted in 2011, it's now 2015. I'd venture to say that Overlord has read quite extensively across the field now, may understand the distinction between UF and PR (although the two do often overlap) and may hold different views if asked about his thoughts today.

I will expand your TBR pile.

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Offline DDRRead

Re: The Future of Fantasy
« Reply #50 on: May 02, 2015, 08:22:44 AM »
I didn't realise it was a necro, but I'm not bothered if the quote is old or no longer 'the true and real thoughts' of our glorious leader. Urban Romance, Paranormal Fantasy, meh. It might have wizards, vampires, and werewolves, but if it's got cars, smart phones, and that new fangled t'internet, well that sort of stuff can stay on my TV where I like it. I don't want it lumped in with my books about people (mostly hooded people these days) hitting each other in the face with swords and axes while wizards and dragons do their thing in a grim and dark, gritty grey grimdark pretend past on a pretend second (or third) Earth (or should that be Aearth or Yrth). Even if I will find quite a few people who like both (and know all the proper names for subgenre). I am unrepentant in my fantasy first mindset. :D

Offline ScarletBea

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Re: The Future of Fantasy
« Reply #51 on: May 02, 2015, 09:54:17 AM »
if it's got cars, smart phones, and that new fangled t'internet, well that sort of stuff can stay on my TV where I like it.
I don't want it lumped in with my books about people (mostly hooded people these days) hitting each other in the face with swords and axes while wizards and dragons do their thing in a grim and dark, gritty grey grimdark pretend past.

In a way I quite agree with you in my tastes for fantasy books (vs. TV shows) - although I might be persuaded to read differently sometimes.
I think the main problem was/is to say that the other types of fantasy should not be called fantasy, just because you don't like them. That is a big no-no.
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Offline DDRRead

Re: The Future of Fantasy
« Reply #52 on: May 02, 2015, 10:31:55 AM »
I think the main problem was/is to say that the other types of fantasy should not be called fantasy, just because you don't like them.

On a semi-serious note . . .I didn't say I didn't like them. True I'm not that interested in reading in those sub genres though I have/would read some (read wide and read deep). I just think they'd be better served as separate genres.

Take, for example, this years (or was it last years I lose track of time these days) Goodreads awards. The Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance were added to the fantasy category and I'm certain that, that was to the detriment of the Fantasy writers. I'm pretty sure Mark Lawrence, for instance, missed out on an award he might otherwise have snagged if the categories hadn't been merged.

So it's not just me being all 'Dragons good, teh sexy vampires bad' in a petty 'get off my lawn' way. Genre is after all mostly a marketing thing  (at the end of the day what writers and readers are always looking for are good stories to tell and read) and as marketing I think lumping (or labeling I guess) everything under the umbrella of Fantasy or Speculative is less than stellar. IMHO, YMMV, terms and conditions apply, etc.

That is a big no-no.

On a not so serious note . . .to paraphrase/channel Chuck Wendig . . . Sometimes you just wanna play with the 'no-no' hole . . . sorry couldn't help myself. Saturday morning mischievousness. Unrepentant I tells ya, unrepentant . . .







. . . I'll get me coat.

Offline ScarletBea

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Re: The Future of Fantasy
« Reply #53 on: May 02, 2015, 10:49:12 AM »
Fair enough :)
I wasn'y really thinking about "awards, lists, best ofs, marketing, problems in selling" in my reply, just addressing our small group here at F-F -- sometimes I do forget about the big wide world out there ;D


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Offline DDRRead

Re: The Future of Fantasy
« Reply #54 on: May 02, 2015, 11:35:58 AM »
sometimes I do forget about the big wide world out there ;D

Forgetting about the wide world out there is often the best policy.

Offline Eclipse

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Re: The Future of Fantasy
« Reply #55 on: May 02, 2015, 01:22:54 PM »
You probably  like Chuck Wendig Blackbirds (Miriam Black #1) Urban Fantasy Novel  ;)

I Respect you views it's just bugs me people mix up UF with PR as there some really wonderful UF books out there which are just as good or better as other Fantasy out there


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Offline DDRRead

Re: The Future of Fantasy
« Reply #56 on: May 02, 2015, 01:41:34 PM »
You probably  like Chuck Wendig Blackbirds (Miriam Black #1) Urban Fantasy Novel  ;)

I have a copy on Kindle. It's on my (stupidly long) to read list. My bad for lumping together UF and PR that's obviously (and ironically) annoying if you're a fan of one and not the other.

Offline Roxxsmom

Re: The Future of Fantasy
« Reply #57 on: May 04, 2015, 02:58:07 AM »
Personally I think it is going in the direction of being more reflective and first person based. Traditionally Fantasy has been set in the third person and the focus on Epic worlds. I think Fantasy is becoming more and more character orientated and in order to enforce this - we are getting brought closer to characters. We now experience far more from their eyes and their minds than before. I think authors such as Newton, Mieville, etc will continue to have their more unique worlds popularized, but I also thing pretty traditional fantasy tales will remain prevalent with more character emphasis and more dark tones as we continue moving away from the characters journey and towards the actual character.

I've been thinking the same thing also. Much of the fantasy I've read in the past couple years (really, a large chunk of what I've read that's been written since the early 2000s) is first person (and I read secondary or alternative world settings almost exclusively). And much of the third person I've read is limited third, like Aberbrombie's stuff, or if it's omniscient, it follows a particular character around for most or all of the story (The Goblin Emperor is a great example of this--it's omni masquerading as limited third).

I suspect the popularity of YA fantasy and UF (very often written in first person or with a very "deep" narrative) is part of what's driving this. I wonder if present tense will start to spill over into adult fantasy more too.

Fashions change quickly, of course, and it's hard to say what will catch. Fantasy is a huge genre, and there are so many books being published nowadays that people can compartmentalize their reading more than they once did. I haven't read an UF novel in a long time, for instance, though I used to read them occasionally (when I couldn't find a secondary world fantasy that interested me).

Also, judging from what's on the wish lists of a lot of agents and editors in the US right now (I'm in the process of querying a novel, so I've been researching these), we might soon be seeing more secondary world fantasies set in diverse cultures that don't resemble medieval Europe and with traditionally underrepresented characters more in the foreground.

Offline Takoren

Re: The Future of Fantasy
« Reply #58 on: May 04, 2015, 06:09:33 AM »
I'm a tad late to this party, but I'll chime in.

First of all, I, like others here, have never personally been told that my reading preferences are "childish", but I have read multiple "serious" critics treat any new fantasy film, TV series or book with disdain for no other reason than it was fantasy. If you can still find them, try and google negative reviews for the LOTR films (note: not the Hobbit films, the LOTR films). I guarantee that 98% of the negative reviews were people poo-pooing it because it was fantasy. I even remember one critic saying that the movies only did well because parents were taking their children multiple times and insisted that no one over the age of five could like these movies.

There was a review of Game of Thrones that labled it "dragon-ridden fantasy crap" and spent most of the review talking about how the author doesn't read fantasy, doesn't like fantasy and therefore didn't like the show. He apparently did like The Jersey Shore, however, as he suggested the "wedding night" scene between Dany and Drogo was an homage to that show.

Also, I have to agree with all the posters who have said that urban fantasy and paranormal romance are not the same thing. Take it from someone who has read both. For example, I love--love--Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files series. It's amazing, and I will admit that loud and proud. But I tried reading a paranormal romance once when I worked part time in a used book store and the woman who ran it said that I should read it before deciding I didn't like it. Well, I read part of one book. Urban Fantasy it is not. It was basically a thin plot with some excuses for the hot blonde (naturally!) werewolf female lead to bone her werewolf-hunter boyfriend multiple times.

On a side note, suggesting that JRR Tolkien isn't the grandfather of modern fantasy just because people wrote fantasy before him is really missing the point. Tolkien is the man upon whom the foundation for modern fantasy was built. Not Eddison. Not Dunsany. Tolkien. Tolkien wasn't the first fantasy writer and no one would ever suggest such a thing. But he's the man who made fantasy what it is today, directly or indirectly. Now, that's not to say that all fantasy sense then is a pale imitation of Tolkien (though some of it is). I merely say that the innovations that later sprang from the minds of such diverse writers as Donaldson, Eddings, Jordan, Martin, Hobb, Bradley, Lynch, Carey, Abercrombie, Mieville,  Sanderson and a huge list of others, probably would never have been more than "pulp" books that might not have even gotten past genre magazines, or would have been told by publishers that they would need to be released as quick, episodic novella-type series, assuming they were even taken seriously enough to publish. Tolkien is the reason fantasy is taken even as seriously as it is today.

Now, on to the future of fantasy. The future of fantasy, in my opinion, will be greatly helped by a larger, more diverse menu to choose from. This is already happening, and I think it has helped greatly in terms of increasing public awareness and appreciation of it. Oh, we still have a long, long way to go, but thanks to the genre broadening out and including so many subgenres, there is so much more to choose from, and thus, something that almost anyone could enjoy. If you know a friend who kinda thought about getting into fantasy, but doesn't like reading about period settings, there's urban fantasy. If they don't like reading the same fantasy cliche's they see in Disney movies and fairy tales, there's a wide variety of fantasy that is edgier and less predictable without being grimdark. But if grim and dark is what they want, they can have it. Fantasy writers are also coming from more diverse background these days, and they're bringing that diversity into their writing and creating new ways to build character and build worlds that we never would have conceived of in the 80's.

I love this, personally. I don't want fantasy to just become one thing to the exclusion of all others. It was that, for a long while, and that was its worst period. In fact, from about 1990 until 2003 I barely read fantasy at all, and it didn't help that when I went to the fantasy rack at a book store, it seemed like I was faced with rack after rack of RPG scenarios in book form.

Also, I think fantasy is by and large moving away from Giant Doorstopper Series With Ten Volumes That Might Never End (TM). They're still out there, and admittedly I'm a big fan of several of them, but I'm seeing a return to shorter series (quadrilogies, trilogies), even single-volume, and this is definitely not a bad thing. It's pretty intimidating for a person who's never read fantasy, but is considering it, to go to the fantasy section and have a huge shelf space entirely taken up by one series, or alternately to have only one book by a given author on the shelf, so that the customer gets home, cracks it open, and quickly realizes it's book 9 in a twelve-volume set.
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Offline Lady Ty

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Re: The Future of Fantasy
« Reply #59 on: May 05, 2015, 05:19:57 AM »
I'm a tad late to this party, but I'll chime in.
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Now, on to the future of fantasy. The future of fantasy, in my opinion, will be greatly helped by a larger, more diverse menu to choose from. This is already happening, and I think it has helped greatly in terms of increasing public awareness and appreciation of it. Oh, we still have a long, long way to go, but thanks to the genre broadening out and including so many subgenres, there is so much more to choose from, and thus, something that almost anyone could enjoy. If you know a friend who kinda thought about getting into fantasy, but doesn't like reading about period settings, there's urban fantasy. If they don't like reading the same fantasy cliche's they see in Disney movies and fairy tales, there's a wide variety of fantasy that is edgier and less predictable without being grimdark. But if grim and dark is what they want, they can have it. Fantasy writers are also coming from more diverse background these days, and they're bringing that diversity into their writing and creating new ways to build character and build worlds that we never would have conceived of in the 80's.

I love this, personally. I don't want fantasy to just become one thing to the exclusion of all others. It was that, for a long while, and that was its worst period. In fact, from about 1990 until 2003 I barely read fantasy at all, and it didn't help that when I went to the fantasy rack at a book store, it seemed like I was faced with rack after rack of RPG scenarios in book form.
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Delighted you "chimed in" @Takoren:D I couldn't agree more about your view of future of fantasy, it's exactly the drum I beat all the time. So important to recognise and enjoy the diversity rather than criticising some because it doesn't fit a pre- conceived label.

Some of us forget and others don't realise, but until the advent and explosion of technology, early nineties onward, even in well developed countries literacy was not a given and reading was not popular with a large proportion of the population. Printed books were still a luxury, over here even paperbacks have always been expensive. Libraries were not widespread and often charged fees.  Gradually as more people gained access to computers  so much more was available. The arrival of Project Gutenberg was like heaven had opened the libraries for readers and it gets better and better. 

Those years are nearly a lifetime ago for many, but not really long in terms of widespread reading and enjoyment of any fiction.  If you think in these terms fantasy fiction has rocketed and is continuing at that rate.  Eventually popular demand will find a new fancy, but in the meantime many new fantasy lovers will have been hooked and passed it on their kids and grandkids.

As more people start to read contemporary fantasy I suspect they may also return to enjoy some of the older originals which will slip into becoming fantasy "classics".  While there is much excellent YA writing, some of the old favourites such as Shannara, Belgariad and then Dragonlance are still the perfect introduction for younger 8 - 13 year olds, who love the adventure, the characters and the excitement, but are not yet ready for more complex plots and concepts and where any hint of romance provokes "Yuck".   From about six years old they play games like Wizard and are primed to enjoy those stories which will set them on the path for future reading.

Completely off the point but
Spoiler for Hiden:
Now Wizard is one game where I don't need dexterity, as you use a keyboard, but if any of you have ever played it, the actual hoppity-hop movement of your character is a joy unto itself. And you can own your own castle and have dragons for pets and feed them and enter them in sports.....  ;D

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