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Fantasy Faction => Fantasy Book & Author Discussion => Topic started by: ultamentkiller on November 26, 2015, 04:25:29 AM

Title: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ultamentkiller on November 26, 2015, 04:25:29 AM
Now, before I propose this question, let me be clear. Mainstream doesn't necessarily mean there's a film adaptation. It means the books have been insanely successful, appearing in the top 10 list of the New York Times Bestseller List. Or somewhere around there.
I would like to gather other people's thoughts on this. It seems that, for books that have been adopted by the public, a lot of criticism comes out of the Fantasy community. There are exceptions of course, Harry Potter and Game of Thrones instantly jumping to mind. But what about the rest?
Maybe this is just me feeling like some of the best series out there are being picked on. I won't deny that it's part of it. Maybe I'm only seeing the negativity because those people are the most vocal. But, through your own observations, do you find this to be the case?
Of course, I'm asking this to the Fantasy community, who I'm accusing of doing this. So maybe the question is, out of all the books mainstreamed by society, how many of those are deserving? Why or why not?
Feel free to answer either or both of those questions below.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ClintACK on November 26, 2015, 05:02:38 AM
What does "deserve" mean in this context?

I could see a complaint if a book reached a mass audience through a deceptive advertising campaign and most of the people who bought it didn't enjoy the book.

But if most of the people who bought a book read it and enjoyed it... of course it "deserved" those sales.  Even if it's not my favorite book.  Even if in my opinion it's a terrible book.

I'm more interested in understanding *why* Harry Potter, say, had such broad appeal, than in griping about why books I liked better didn't sell as well.

Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ScarletBea on November 26, 2015, 08:47:47 AM
Maybe relevant, maybe not, but one thing that bugs me lots is to see Paul Hoffman's books almost *always* on the special tables at Waterstone's.
The publisher must be paying a lot to promote those books, because they a/ are completely derivative and, most importantly, b/ are truly awfully written, to the point of 3 being completely unreadable.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Overlord on November 26, 2015, 08:51:55 AM
Maybe relevant, maybe not, but one thing that bugs me lots is to see Paul Hoffman's books almost *always* on the special tables at Waterstone's.
The publisher must be paying a lot to promote those books, because they a/ are completely derivative and, most importantly, b/ are truly awfully written, to the point of 3 being completely unreadable.

Agreed. A big part of it is the marketing. They were able to talk supermarkets into stocking the book and putting it in the top 5. Because they are so cheap (2 for £7.00) they sold A LOT of them and exposed them to a wide audience.

Abercrombie, Sanderson, Rothfuss, Butcher, Hobb, Canavan, Weeks, Brett, Aaronovitch all do well on the bestseller lists :)

Of those, Abercrombie, Butcher and Aaronovitch have quite a decent genre-crossover appeal.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Lady Ty on November 26, 2015, 11:29:38 AM
@ultamentkiller (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40103), do you mean books such as the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris series or Stephanie Meyer's Twilight?

They would fit in with Clintack's comments of being deserving even if not one's own choice.. They were unusual enough and entertaining enough to capture the attention of readers who may not normally read fantasy. Then there were film and television series follow ups and maybe people bought the books after seeing those. So whatever they did right to capture the public, they deserve the success they have achieved.

I also suspect timing had a part as both were published not too long after Buffy the Vampire slayer finished  or was nearly ending. That was originally a cult series which became generally popular and maybe those two vampire series also gained from Buffy's success.

The only criticism I have heard within the more  fantasy dedicated community is that they are fairly shallow and don't fit the expected vampire stereotypes. I  don't like Twilight at all because to me the vampires are so weak, but that's only personal preference and they appeal to YA, the original target audience.  I was also  influenced when Twilight  came out by suggestions that they had been deliberately written to "make Vampires more wholesome" and that cracked me up and put me right off, although I read it for curiosity.

The first Sookie Stackhouse made me laugh and was entertaining, but not enough to make me bother with more, but I can understand why it is popular. 

@ClintACK (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40381) I  defended Harry Potter in the Book Battles and can explain the original appeal of the books

Quote
My vote goes to Harry Potter for the wonderful effect the actual books had of encouraging  youngsters to read*,  before the films came out,  and for the perfect introduction to fantasy it gave them as well. They got so excited each year waiting for the next one and the characters and storylines matured perfectly for the children, which was clever and a good way to gain firm ground.  Most of us adults loved reading them and they were a welcome different approach to magic at school. Just imagine being young enough to almost believe Hogwarts might be real.  8)

* I can remember so many comments in the media and elsewhere from teachers who found non-readers and slow readers were getting stuck into the first book and talking about it all the time, couldn't wait to read it in class, but reading more at home and parents got drawn in as well.  Lemmony Snickett came out about the same time but just couldn't compare with HP.


 

Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Yora on November 26, 2015, 11:31:41 AM
Breakout success usually is the result of runaway popularity, which can be helped along by intensive promotion, but it generally doesn't say a lot about the quality.
So anytime something becomes super successful there will be plenty of people who are familiar with the broader field who think it's overrated. Which I assume most often to be the case. People outside the field who think it's the unique new greatest thing while not really having anything to compare it to are a minor nuisance, but not really something to get upset about.

An artist getting famous is always mostly luck, with talent and skill being a minor contributing factor. Once you accept that there's really nothing upsetting about some mediocre creator getting all the praise.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ScarletBea on November 26, 2015, 12:14:34 PM
Once you accept that there's really nothing upsetting about some mediocre creator getting all the praise.
Maybe not 'upsetting' but certainly annoying and unfair (for me)
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Raptori on November 26, 2015, 12:39:18 PM
Once you accept that there's really nothing upsetting about some mediocre creator getting all the praise.
Maybe not 'upsetting' but certainly annoying and unfair (for me)
Not to mention frustrating as a reader - it can be really difficult to find the better books, especially because so many mediocre ones get such praise. We've discussed Twilight before, I still think that the reason it gets so much criticism is that there are many perspectives from which it has major issues - plot holes, awful writing, shallow characters, pro-abuse messages, etc.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Rostum on November 26, 2015, 01:03:53 PM
The good Reads awards fantasy titles have been discussed elsewhere on the site but when the top selling PR title has ten times more sales than the (real) fantasy titles it's competing against logically it takes the award. Not great for fantasy writers. Twilight did absurdly well for a mediocre book. I haven’t read it but the sprog did to see what the fuss was about and pulled the plot apart at 13.
 Taking the horrific out of horror and making it sexy seems to sell books. Someone is reading them. The writers are becoming successful but whether they have merit is another matter. Perhaps it shows that we are out of step with the mass market?
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Yora on November 26, 2015, 03:00:52 PM
Once you accept that there's really nothing upsetting about some mediocre creator getting all the praise.
Maybe not 'upsetting' but certainly annoying and unfair (for me)

Well, yes. But I think it's a case of "Hate the game, not the players". It's just the way it is. People participating in the hype for something not particularly noteworthy don't do it on purpose. It's just the best that they know and not a claim that it's superior to other works (which they don't know about).
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ClintACK on November 26, 2015, 04:08:42 PM

@ClintACK (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40381) I  defended Harry Potter in the Book Battles and can explain the original appeal of the books


Oh, don't get me wrong.  I *loved* Harry Potter -- despite all the flaws.  (Don't get me started on why Quiddich is the dumbest sport ever invented.)  I named my dog Hagrid (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/general-discussion/pets/msg106040/#msg106040 (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/general-discussion/pets/msg106040/#msg106040)). (See icon to left)

Heck, I even more-or-less enjoyed Twilight when I read it.  And its flaws are *much* worse.  (Quick: aside from Jacob and Edward -- name one thing Bella likes or wants.)



I think one of the big "problems" here is that readers of any genre are much savvier to what's become cliche or overused.  We're excited when we read a well-written book that does something *NEW* with the same old things.  But a mainstream audience has probably never even heard these ideas, so the first breakout mainstream book from an obscure sub genre is almost certain to be riddled with cliches.  (They aren't cliche because they're bad -- they became cliche because they work really well -- it's just that they've been overused and don't have that new-idea-smell anymore.)

Take Back to the Future.  It doesn't do anything new with time travel.  (Okay, sticking it in a car is a bit cool, but you know what I mean.  The story of man-goes-back-in-time-and-accidentally-kills-his-grandfather-erasing-his-own-existence has been a cliche for longer than most of us have been alive.  Sci-fi authors were already inverting and playing with the trope in the 1960's.)  But it's a fun story -- the first mainstream time-travel story since H.G. Wells and Mark Twain, and the first one involving a paradox, as far as I know.

Was it good science fiction?  Absolutely not.  But it was a hugely enjoyable film, and it got some of its strength by stealing good ideas from science fiction and serving them up in an easier form.  No mention of wormholes or relativity or many-worlds or alternate timelines or even the word 'paradox'.

The great science fiction coming out around that time -- Brin's Uplift saga.  In terms of science fiction, there's no comparison between the two.  But can you imagine trying to present the Uplift War to a mass audience in a two hour movie?  (It could make a great GoT-style TV season, though, now that special effects are getting cheap enough.)  There are way too many new ideas for a mainstream audience -- exactly the thing that makes it so spectacular for a sci-fi audience.


But, yeah.  I have no explanation for the love of Twilight.  I guess I'm not a teenage girl.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: DrNefario on November 26, 2015, 08:29:59 PM
I find that the more times you are forced to express an opinion, the more polarised it gets, as if you get exasperated with it. You faintly praise the mediocre thing for a while, and then finally crack and declare it to be the worst thing in the history of things.

There is also the case where you think B is a much better example of the same thing than A, and yet B languishes unknown while the lazy hack creator of A gets to bathe in champagne. Like, say, Foucault's Pendulum being the Da Vinci Code for smart people. Or Battle Royale being the superior version of the Hunger Games. (I've only seen the film of Battle Royale, and didn't think much of it.) This kind of thing happens all the time, in every field, though, and it's often only luck that really separates A and B. Why did Angry Birds get so massive when similar games failed before it? If anyone really knew, they'd do it themselves. It's like pushing boulders up a hill. B rolls back down to the start, but A makes it those crucial extra feet that take it over the peak and let it roll down the other side to success.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Jmack on November 27, 2015, 12:04:15 AM
So, I need to know what books we're actually discussing. Which books have been popular in the mainstream but criticized by the Fantasy community? @ultamentkiller (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40103), what did you have in mind?
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Lady Ty on November 27, 2015, 12:11:09 AM
Taking the horrific out of horror and making it sexy seems to sell books. Someone is reading them. The writers are becoming successful but whether they have merit is another matter. Perhaps it shows that we are out of step with the mass market?

The tinge of sinfulness in actually enjoying sex with a supernatural baddie certainly helps give popular appeal.

Does it matter if you are out of step with the mass market? It is very fickle. Depends whether you write specifically for what is latest popular subject or write for love of your chosen genre and your own satisfaction. Using more than one author name, of course, you can do both. ;)



I think one of the big "problems" here is that readers of any genre are much savvier to what's become cliche or overused. We're excited when we read a well-written book that does something *NEW* with the same old things. But a mainstream audience has probably never even heard these ideas, so the first breakout mainstream book from an obscure sub genre is almost certain to be riddled with cliches.  (They aren't cliche because they're bad -- they became cliche because they work really well -- it's just that they've been overused and don't have that new-idea-smell anymore.)


Good valid reasons for difference in opinions.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Raptori on November 27, 2015, 12:25:31 AM

I think one of the big "problems" here is that readers of any genre are much savvier to what's become cliche or overused. We're excited when we read a well-written book that does something *NEW* with the same old things. But a mainstream audience has probably never even heard these ideas, so the first breakout mainstream book from an obscure sub genre is almost certain to be riddled with cliches.  (They aren't cliche because they're bad -- they became cliche because they work really well -- it's just that they've been overused and don't have that new-idea-smell anymore.)


Good valid reasons for difference in opinions.
Definitely.

It also ties in with something you see quite a bit: someone relatively new to a genre finding out about, reading, and enjoying the less popular/higher quality series, then looking back at the books that got them interested and being able to see that it's flawed (while retaining the positive feelings they originally had for them).

In my case (aside from three series I read as a kid/teenager: Harry Potter, Darren Shan, and Alvin Maker), my introduction to fantasy was Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings, closely followed by Sanderson's Mistborn and Stormlight Archive...  :o
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ultamentkiller on November 27, 2015, 05:45:01 AM
So, I need to know what books we're actually discussing. Which books have been popular in the mainstream but criticized by the Fantasy community? @ultamentkiller (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40103), what did you have in mind?
Well, I can't completely take credit for the idea. A few weeks ago, I watched book showing signing thing(I can't think of the exact term with Thanksgiving food clogging my head) that Brandon Sanderson had at a Google HQ. He was touring for Shadows of Self. Anyway, he gave a speech for the first half of it that boiled down to how we, the fantasy community, tend to shut the mainstream out. Of course he gave Twilight as the example, but he also talked about Erigon. That was the one that really hit me. After someone my age goes through Harry Potter, one of the next series me and my peers hit was Erigon. I didn't realize how ridiculed it was until a few months ago when I said something about how detailed the world was and how I liked the story, excluding book four. Ugh. Anyways, when I heard all the criticism for it for the first time, I shrugged it off.
And then we hit FBB. When I first discovered Brent Weeks, it was with the Night Angel Trilogy. Pretty awesome series I think. Then, later on, I hit the Light Bringer Saga, and my mind was blown. Here was the first author who had repeatedly made my jaw literally drop. The plot twists starting in The Blinding Knife all punched me in the gut. So, when FBB rolls around, I'm not surprised to see both of those series in the first round. For Night Angel, which got paired against The First Law, I felt sorry for it. Not because it couldn't compare. In my mind, they're both awesome series but in different ways. However, when I saw the comparisons people gave between the two, some calling NA a bad cartoon if I remember correctly, I was stunned. Here was a series that had deeply connected with me being compared to a cartoon. Now, everyone has a right to their opinion, but still it was shocking. I could shrug that one off though. It didn't hit that high on the Bestseller list. However, Light Bringer suffered the same result, if a bit less brutal. That stunned me.
Then, recently in this community, we've discussed Hunger Games in great detail. And there I was stunned. Here was something that I had thoroughly enjoyed, and could have conversations with my family about. We would go deeper than the books, talking about how a bunch of Distopian novels followed it. We talked about how the series really shows the fear of government the American people have right now. And so on and so on. Brent Weeks was easy for me to shrug off. I figured I was just a bit different in the fantasy community. Hunger Games sank in.
So, I decided to make this thread. And I've learned a whole lot from it. Still, it comes back to what Sanderson said, which unfortunately I don't have a link to. I learned from it as well. The moment someone walks in our doors and starts fondly talking about a book or series they fell in love with, those of us who passionately hate it have the urge to inform the world on why it sucks and why it should never be read. I'll admit to doing it myself.
"Do you read any fantasy?"
"Well, I've read Harry Potter, and I liked twilight too."
"Oh, so you haven't actually read real fantasy."
I've said that to people before. Harry Potter's certainly fantasy, even though I think it's just the tip of the iceberg. Twilight, as much as I despise it, still counts. Hell, I even shrug Percy Jackson off because it's been mainstreamed. I try telling people to turn to Light Bringer and Stormlight. But how has my rejection of a series they enjoyed help them view my suggestion? It doesn't.
I think the best thing I've heard so far was this.
I find that the more times you are forced to express an opinion, the more polarised it gets, as if you get exasperated with it. You faintly praise the mediocre thing for a while, and then finally crack and declare it to be the worst thing in the history of things.

I've done this too. After I read A Dance With Dragons, I actually was one of the rare people to enjoy it more than Storm of Swords. A month ago, when I was discussing books with a friend of mine, I was saying how much I couldn't stand it. My friend turned to me and said, " I remember a year ago right after you first read this. You loved it so much." My opinion had changed, and I hadn't even reread it. Just  by hearing over and over again that it sucked, and then watching Season 5 of Game of Thrones, I had changed my mind. It took me a bit, but I looked back and remembered all the great moments I enjoyed.
Some books will be quick flames. They shine brightly in your mind and then fade over time. Others will burn in your heart forever. The only way a book can keep burning is if there's something in your heart to feed the flames. And we all have different types of kindling.
So, what was my point in writing all this and how does it connect? I have no idea. But it's midnight, and this is what came out. I'll have to look at this tomorrow and see if it makes any sense, so I apologize ahead of time.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Ryan Mueller on November 27, 2015, 06:55:56 AM
There is an undercurrent of fantasy snobbery that I've noticed in some fantasy communities and discussions. A whole lot of really successful books are considered crap.

If they're crap, then why do they have so many fans?

They might be crap by your standards, but your standards are not the defining standard for all of fantasy.

For example, I don't particularly care for GRRM, Malazan, or R. Scott Bakker. But I don't think they write crap. I think they write books that don't appeal to me all that much.

But if you happen to like someone like Terry Brooks--well, you have terrible taste in fantasy. Why? Can't we just accept that different people have different tastes? If someone enjoys Brooks, Feist, Dragonlance, and Forgotten Realms, we shouldn't tell them that they really should be reading R. Scott Bakker. People like what they like, and that's okay.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Rukaio_Alter on November 27, 2015, 07:33:32 AM
There's a quite simple reason as to why a lot of these mainstream books get a lot of criticism. Because a lot of people read them. The more people read a book, the more people are casting a critical eye over it and thus it's all the more easier for major flaws to be brought to light. And, in this age of high-speed communication, people can share and agree on those flaws and form a significant anti-fanbase fairly quickly.

If Twilight remained an obscure romance novel only read by its fanbase, it would probably remain well regarded among said fanbase. But, since it was dragged into the public spotlight, that's led to a lot of people pointing out its many many flaws and sharing them about. Same with Eragon. Other famous books like Harry Potter and Game of Thrones don't share as many obvious flaws and thus are more well regarded as a whole in the public perception (although you will still have significant hatedoms because not everyone is going to enjoy something and the more people read a book, the more people who dislike them will emerge (even if most people do enjoy it).
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ScarletBea on November 27, 2015, 02:00:31 PM
Then, later on, I hit the Light Bringer Saga, and my mind was blown. Here was the first author who had repeatedly made my jaw literally drop. The plot twists starting in The Blinding Knife all punched me in the gut.
(...)
 Here was a series that had deeply connected with me being compared to a cartoon. Now, everyone has a right to their opinion, but still it was shocking. I could shrug that one off though. It didn't hit that high on the Bestseller list. However, Light Bringer suffered the same result, if a bit less brutal. That stunned me.

I don't care much about what other people say (except you guys on F-F - well, sometimes ;)), so I don't have a problem to say I also love Brent Weeks books, especially Light Bringer, which I find amazing.
So don't worry, @ultamentkiller (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40103), you're not alone in that love ;D
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Rostum on November 27, 2015, 02:35:40 PM
The Sci-Fi and fantasy I read I expect to draw me in, create empathy with the characters and make me think or at least make me imagine from the world building.
Not an exceptional set of requirements?
A lot of commercially sucessfull works do not do this. It is easy to deride Twilight and PR general because they are something else dressed up as fantasy and don't stand up to lesser known stories. There are books I read 30 years ago and cannot read now as they are not at al to my taste, but they worked when I was a teenager.
It does bug me that there are great authors out there who lose out to inferior works



Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Yora on November 27, 2015, 03:47:18 PM
That's because the market does not demand great works. The market demands sellable works.

And I would say the more artistic and deep a work becomes, the more requirements it takes from its audience to have its quality fully appreciated. To be accessible to a wide audience means that you can't get too specific. The more complex your content, the smaller your potential audience.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ClintACK on November 27, 2015, 03:53:16 PM

In my case (aside from three series I read as a kid/teenager: Harry Potter, Darren Shan, and Alvin Maker), my introduction to fantasy was Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings, closely followed by Sanderson's Mistborn and Stormlight Archive...  :o

This topic seems ripe for it's own thread.  :)  But wow, you got a great start.

I think I started with Narnia and Prydain, then moved to Xanth, loved the Hobbit, but DNF'd LoTR halfway through the Two Towers.  (Half a volume of wandering in the swamp was too much for me at ten or eleven...)  Then my friends and I became aware of D&D...
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Jmack on November 27, 2015, 04:07:51 PM
@ultamentkiller (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40103), that was a really helpful post. I understand much better what prompted the discussion.

I have a tendency to enjoy books for what they are, rather than what they're not. (Though I have DNF'd a variety of books over the years.)

Hmmm, best seller Fantasy books...

LOTR and Hobbit: My devotion is well documented
Sword of Shannara: Really enjoyed it as a teen; have ridiculed it mercilessly since without a re-read.
Thomas Covenant: I think it's really strong and unfairly ridiculed, but in de gustibus non disputatum (ain't i eddicated?)
HP: Loved all of it except the finale of the final book, which I found to be artificial and mechanistic.
Twilight: Read the first, enjoyed it sort of, but felt no urge to continue.
Eragon: Read the first two? Thought they were pretty decent. Movie was a ghastly joke, which probably put me off completing
Belgariad: I really, really enjoyed the first series and would still recommend it.
WOT: A series about which I have lots of mixed feelings
ASOIAF: Frogging brilliant, but bogging down.

There you have it. You didn't ask, but oh well.  ;)

One more story: Some years ago, the U.S. was obsessed with a book titled "Bridges of Madison County." I bump into people for whom this was the greatest book they ever read. Meanwhile, Mrs. JMack and I read aloud together and laughed the whole time at how utterly awful it was. I've learned not to say this in public.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Rostum on November 27, 2015, 05:12:38 PM
Quote
That's because the market does not demand great works. The market demands sellable works.

I totally agree with you Yora. I would add with an easy conversion to the screen, big or small for that extra revenue stream.

Thank the gods there are a few exceptions.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Eclipse on November 27, 2015, 05:18:33 PM
Then, later on, I hit the Light Bringer Saga, and my mind was blown. Here was the first author who had repeatedly made my jaw literally drop. The plot twists starting in The Blinding Knife all punched me in the gut.
(...)
 Here was a series that had deeply connected with me being compared to a cartoon. Now, everyone has a right to their opinion, but still it was shocking. I could shrug that one off though. It didn't hit that high on the Bestseller list. However, Light Bringer suffered the same result, if a bit less brutal. That stunned me.

I don't care much about what other people say (except you guys on F-F - well, sometimes ;)), so I don't have a problem to say I also love Brent Weeks books, especially Light Bringer, which I find amazing.
So don't worry, @ultamentkiller (http://fantasy-faction.com/forum/index.php?action=profile;u=40103), you're not alone in that love ;D

I enjoyed the Night Angel series but Lightbringer didn't work for me , we can't all like the same books but its great when we do  :D
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ultamentkiller on November 27, 2015, 05:30:46 PM
The deeper we dive into the genre, the more flaws we have a tendency to see. When I last read Harry Potter, I was 8 or 9. I barely remember the books. But I didn't see any flaws because that was my first taste of the genre. Same can be said with Star Wars and Erigon. Until the comparison was thrown to me, I had no clue to even think along those lines.
I'm sure now, if I went back and started rereading series I read at least 4 years ago, I would notice completely different things. Of course, that's apart of a reread, but I've read so much more in the past year that I would like to think I'm smarter.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: magisensei on December 01, 2015, 06:57:10 PM
I think fantasy has always been apart of mainstream literature, reading, and popular culture.  Take for example the various myths and legends that continue to be part of popular culture - eg King Arthur, Merlin, Thor, Hercules, vampires, werewolves, ghosts, faeries and gods and demons. 

As for what modern fantasy become 'mainstream' really depends on how they are marketed to the public at large.  Take for example superheroes - over the past few years superheroes have become part of the mainstream tv and movie culture - where superheroes were once thought to be just a subculture (and not looked upon as a good influence for kids) - they have gone mainstream - with tv series such as Flash, Arrow, and Shield etc and movies.

For fantasy novels that have gone mainstream - assuming you include the Hunger Games and YA dystopian novels as fantasy - then you really have the classic such as Tolkien, LeGuin and CS Lewis that follow a more classic epic like fantasy tale - and people in general have enjoyed these epic tales of adventure that deal with such simple themes of good and evil (I think one of the reasons why Star Wars remain so popular is because of the epic feel combined with a simple of good vs evil).  But you also have urban fantasy that have gone mainstream - Sookie Stackhouse (vampire), Twilight, (even Jim Butcher's Dresden series got a tv series) etc and other urban fantasy series that have gone beyond their own niche market to break into tv and movies and as such become a part of mainstream pop culture. 

As for what 'deserves' to be mainstream - first you have to define 'deserve.'  I think great writing and amazing plots and characters really deserve a chance to be marketed to a larger audience of people.   I love to see Ben Aaronovitch and his Rivers of London (UF) series become a tv series or even Laura Resnick's Esther Diamond series become a tv series - great urban fantasy reads with enjoyable characters and solid writing.  I'd also love to see Tamora Pierces YA series become more mainstream but it would I believe be a massive undertaking since it would require a lot of world-building but then again Star Wars, LOTR and Games of Thrones did it so not impossible to do. 




Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ClintACK on December 01, 2015, 11:07:55 PM
As for what modern fantasy become 'mainstream' really depends on how they are marketed to the public at large.  Take for example superheroes - over the past few years superheroes have become part of the mainstream tv and movie culture - where superheroes were once thought to be just a subculture (and not looked upon as a good influence for kids) - they have gone mainstream - with tv series such as Flash, Arrow, and Shield etc and movies.

Superheroes seem to come and go.

Way back in the Stone Age when I was a kid, I grew up with Adam West playing Batman on TV, Spiderman on the Electric Company, and the Justice League of America featuring heavily in the Saturday Morning Cartoon lineup.  Then there was the inexplicable Shazam!, Lynda Carter's Wonder Woman, the Greatest American Hero, the Hulk, and (arguably) the Six-million Dollar Man.  These were all very, very kid-friendly.  And the original Superman movie came out during the same period.

Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Nestat on December 04, 2015, 12:42:43 AM
Anybody mentioned Terry Pratchett's Discworld yet? There's a marvellous, mainstream fantasy series that deserves its success and very few people criticise!

Maybe relevant, maybe not, but one thing that bugs me lots is to see Paul Hoffman's books almost *always* on the special tables at Waterstone's.
The publisher must be paying a lot to promote those books, because they a/ are completely derivative and, most importantly, b/ are truly awfully written, to the point of 3 being completely unreadable.

Any particular Waterstones? It's either because it's selling itself and being ordered or a bookseller likes it and recommends it.

Lots of books are derivative and awfully-written, it doesn't stop people enjoying them. Safe is far more popular than adventurous. Lavie Tidhar is a fantastic, groundbreaking writer - his agent took him on because he believes he will have the same cultural influence as Bukowski or Hunter S Thompson. A Man Lies Dreaming is amazing, well-written and original. It's won the Jerwood Prize and just been longlisted for the Dublin Literary Prize. I love it, but it's much harder to sell than Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London. I can think of half-a-dozen similar series and that just flies off the shelf by itself. 

The Jack Reacher series is well-written, but essentially the same formulaic thriller over and over again. People still buy it, because they enjoy it and they know what to expect.

Fifty Shades of Grey is the epitome of what you're talking about: terribly written fan fiction. It's successful because people can talk about it and bond. It's also got the flavour of scandal - something which you shouldn't be reading - which helped it tremendously as well.

I would like to gather other people's thoughts on this. It seems that, for books that have been adopted by the public, a lot of criticism comes out of the Fantasy community.

The more popular a book is, the more it is talked about and the more differing opinions you have. If something is popular, there are people who dissent for the sake of controversy. And if something is obviously badly written, then people will say it's rubbish. Then they'll buy it and enjoy it anyway. I find some are honest about that, some aren't.

There have been some high-profile arguments which put the SFF community in a bad light, like the Hugos. Though I don't see the fantasy community being more negative than I see the literary or other genre communities behaving. If you see a book you think deserves more attention, just shout about it from the rooftops. Word of mouth is still the way people like to discover their next book.

And I think negative opinions, honest or artificial, can have a positive effect. There are some books which are truly, truly awful and deserve to be bludgeoned into pulp with a verbal cosh. But most of the books I didn't enjoy, I forgot about them. People cared enough to have an opinion about the books we're discussing, and to take time to voice that opinion too. Either because they secretly liked the book or they want to be part of a cultural event. Either way, the author and book both benefit.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ultamentkiller on December 04, 2015, 02:10:28 AM
Actually, I've never heard of Discworld until I got on this forum. Maybe it's more of a UK thing?
I knew kids that read Harry Potter. I knew kids that read Erigon and all of rick Riordan's stuff. I never new a person who even had heard of the name Terry Pratchet until I got into the Fantasy community. Then I started hearing stories about parents reading it to their kids and all that.
I was, and still am, confused.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Lanko on December 04, 2015, 03:04:27 AM
Actually, I've never heard of Discworld until I got on this forum. Maybe it's more of a UK thing?
I knew kids that read Harry Potter. I knew kids that read Erigon and all of rick Riordan's stuff. I never new a person who even had heard of the name Terry Pratchet until I got into the Fantasy community. Then I started hearing stories about parents reading it to their kids and all that.
I was, and still am, confused.

Same here, and even longer than you.

I was reading a blog about writing and one article cited Pratchett and a lot of reasons to read him for inspiration. I was scared that there were like 45 volumes of Discworld novels and didn't started.
Much later I discovered that the order didn't matter, they were isolated stories, but in the same setting or a different part of that world.

I only read about his death much later as well, and there was an article on the Guardian bashing Pratchett which caused revolt among the fans. Specially since the guy who wrote it admitted he didn't even had read any of his works.

Then book club chose Nation, by Pratchett. A standalone, not set in Discworld, but a fictional Earth.

From what I heard, he was also knighted by the Queen of England, not long ago, so that probably helped a lot as well.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Raptori on December 04, 2015, 03:44:11 AM
Actually, I've never heard of Discworld until I got on this forum. Maybe it's more of a UK thing?
I knew kids that read Harry Potter. I knew kids that read Erigon and all of rick Riordan's stuff. I never new a person who even had heard of the name Terry Pratchet until I got into the Fantasy community. Then I started hearing stories about parents reading it to their kids and all that.
I was, and still am, confused.
I had never read any of his books, but I was definitely aware of Discworld - he was always mentioned in the same breath as Tolkien and Lewis in terms of influential fantasy authors. Guess it just depends.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ScarletBea on November 28, 2017, 12:36:39 PM
*doing an Eclipse* ;D

I noticed that Sanderson's Oathbringer entered at number 3 (or was it 4) on the Sunday Times bestselling list.
Are people more open to Fantasy books, now?

I'm not sure - the last Saturday paper I bought was dedicated to the "best books of 2017", and although it had a separate section for crime and for historical fiction, there was absolutely zero mention of any SFF books.
Or do fantasy fans not get their info from mainstream media, so there's no point in dedicating space to it?
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Peat on November 28, 2017, 09:38:57 PM
*doing an Eclipse* ;D

I noticed that Sanderson's Oathbringer entered at number 3 (or was it 4) on the Sunday Times bestselling list.
Are people more open to Fantasy books, now?

I'm not sure - the last Saturday paper I bought was dedicated to the "best books of 2017", and although it had a separate section for crime and for historical fiction, there was absolutely zero mention of any SFF books.
Or do fantasy fans not get their info from mainstream media, so there's no point in dedicating space to it?

Newspaper critics go for the unignorable and the 'worthy'/'trendy'. Most fantasy is neither - but that doesn't mean there's no mainstream interest in fantasy, or that fantasy fans don't read the mainstream media. Merely that we're on the wrong end of the snob stick. Its not different from, say, metal outselling classical but getting less attention in the papers, or the amount of reviews of lovely little independent places in Bristol/west London vs lovely little independent places in Yorkshire/south London.

Is the mainstream open to fantasy? I think it is here, but more the Gaiman/Morgenstern type than Sanderson/Jordan.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ultamentkiller on December 01, 2017, 01:00:30 AM
I'm not sure. I always see Fantasy books in the New York Times bestselling list, and on the top placements for Amazon Kindle. I don't think that's a good indicator for if something is mainstream or not. To me, it's mainstream if 8 out of 10 people I ask have at least heard of it.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Peat on December 02, 2017, 07:16:52 AM
I'm not sure. I always see Fantasy books in the New York Times bestselling list, and on the top placements for Amazon Kindle. I don't think that's a good indicator for if something is mainstream or not. To me, it's mainstream if 8 out of 10 people I ask have at least heard of it.

I'm going to guess very few books are mainstream by that definition though. Or did you mean 8 out of 10 book readers know about it?

That said, yes, bestselling list doesn't mean that much considering the numbers involved. If a book has a high-ish percentage of the fantasy fandom buying it on release, its going to get in.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ultamentkiller on December 04, 2017, 09:06:19 PM
yes, I'm sorry. Eight out of 10 book readers, for the most part. You can pretty much ask anyone on the street about Harry Potter, and they at least know who the main character is and what they do. On the other hand, Game of Thrones wasn't mainstream until the TV show. In fact, what books were mainstreamed before the show or movie? I can think of Hunger Games... Yep. I'm out.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Dark Squiggle on December 04, 2017, 09:29:18 PM
Mainstream books before TV/movie
Narnia
Golden Compass
LotR
The Martian
Eragon
Anything by Roald Dhal
What is a mainstream book?  Most books that are talked about are only really known for something else. How many people do you know who read Les Miserables? Everyone knows what it is, but noone's actually read it. How is this a fair way to measure "mainstream"? The mainstream person probably doesn't read altogether, and the "fantasy fan" or "SF fan" doesn't really exist. I call myself a fantasy fan, but fantasy only makes up, say 30% of my reading, and High Fantasy even less.
Terry Prachett is famous mostly in the UK, and among Douglass Adams fans in the US :)
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ultamentkiller on December 05, 2017, 12:41:32 AM
Interesting. I had never heard of The Martian until it was being made a movie. Narnia definitely. the LOTR movies came out a couple years after I was born. The Golden Compass because of its controversy, which is the easiest way to become famous.

I can think of sci-fi examples for sure. Ender's Game. It's YA, but The Maze Runner and Divergent. Probably tons more. Fantasy seems harder though.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: DrNefario on December 05, 2017, 12:33:51 PM
I think a thing is mainstream if people are likely to know something about it even if they haven't directly encountered it. If it's something that might, for instance, come up as a question on a daytime TV quiz. In literature, this means it's mostly about literary award types, big blockbusters and classics. Often when they have also been turned into a TV series or movie.

I don't feel that Sanderson has that level of breakout recognition, yet.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Rostum on December 05, 2017, 01:22:57 PM
Quote
Interesting. I had never heard of The Martian until it was being made a movie. Narnia definitely. the LOTR movies came out a couple years after I was born. The Golden Compass because of its controversy, which is the easiest way to become famous.

While I don't disagree with you, I am curious why The golden Compass would be considered controversial within any rational use of the word? I am well aware of religious discord on Pullmans works because he is an atheist but religious objection to his work with in UK was limited to the  people who believe the Easter Bunny is the work of Satan and some Islamic objection from outliers within that religion. Mostly it concerned his views and not his writing, 'how dare an atheist be given a voice' was the general tone. Was this really a big thing in the States or merely among fundamentalists?
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Peat on December 05, 2017, 09:11:45 PM
yes, I'm sorry. Eight out of 10 book readers, for the most part. You can pretty much ask anyone on the street about Harry Potter, and they at least know who the main character is and what they do. On the other hand, Game of Thrones wasn't mainstream until the TV show. In fact, what books were mainstreamed before the show or movie? I can think of Hunger Games... Yep. I'm out.

Gods know. Here, to pick an example, Bernard Cornwell is advertised in every train station when he has a new release, he's sold tons of books, they're in every library, second hand shop, book shop etc.etc., and has already had one book series turned into TV. Yet when The Last Kingdom became TV as well, most of the conversations I heard about it featured people who didn't know about the book.

And I'm not completely sure The Hunger Games were mainstream here either. I think most books become mainstream quite a long time after their publication.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ultamentkiller on December 05, 2017, 09:19:14 PM
The Hunger Games was definitely mainstream over here. Teachers were reading it to their third-grade classrooms a year and a half before the movie came out. Which seems oddly young, but there it is.

Quote
Interesting. I had never heard of The Martian until it was being made a movie. Narnia definitely. the LOTR movies came out a couple years after I was born. The Golden Compass because of its controversy, which is the easiest way to become famous.

While I don't disagree with you, I am curious why The golden Compass would be considered controversial within any rational use of the word? I am well aware of religious discord on Pullmans works because he is an atheist but religious objection to his work with in UK was limited to the  people who believe the Easter Bunny is the work of Satan and some Islamic objection from outliers within that religion. Mostly it concerned his views and not his writing, 'how dare an atheist be given a voice' was the general tone. Was this really a big thing in the States or merely among fundamentalists?
I never finished the book or the series, so I have no idea. I just remember when I was younger the southern baptists screaming "evil book!" Could have been different in other Christian denominations though.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Peat on December 05, 2017, 09:40:01 PM
The Hunger Games was definitely mainstream over here. Teachers were reading it to their third-grade classrooms a year and a half before the movie came out. Which seems oddly young, but there it is.

Maybe things have changed since I was in school but you'd be lucky to read anything by someone still alive when I was there, nevermind published within the last decade... which of course has absolutely nothing to do with why reading isn't mainstream.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Rostum on December 06, 2017, 01:19:55 PM
I believe curriculum changes have meant English Lit has now reached the 3rd quarter of the 20th century in UK Schools and may now think you don't have to be dead to be worth reading. @Nighteyes am I even close?

Quote
I never finished the book or the series, so I have no idea. I just remember when I was younger the southern baptists screaming "evil book!" Could have been different in other Christian denominations though.

Ta muchly. Southern baptist translates to screaming nut job over here. The baseline being CofE which means you don't actually have to believe in anything at all.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ultamentkiller on December 06, 2017, 11:47:26 PM
Quote
I never finished the book or the series, so I have no idea. I just remember when I was younger the southern baptists screaming "evil book!" Could have been different in other Christian denominations though.

Ta muchly. Southern baptist translates to screaming nut job over here. The baseline being CofE which means you don't actually have to believe in anything at all.
[/quote]
The baptists or the Church of England? I'm confused. Since this is dipping into religion rather than mainstream books, maybe it's the wrong thread? But I'm fascinated.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Rostum on December 07, 2017, 02:00:45 AM
Agreed I took this well off topic. Church of England is very mild and liberal viewed in comparison to even moderate American baptists.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ultamentkiller on December 07, 2017, 04:12:22 AM
Got it. I'm converting to Orthodox Christianity from Southern Baptist for several reasons, so I feel that.

Back to mainstream books...
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Peat on December 07, 2017, 06:38:35 AM
Anyway, since it did kinda come up last page, here is an example of the UK mainstream(ish) paying attention to SF&F - the Guardian's best SFF books of 2017

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/nov/30/the-best-science-fiction-and-fantasy-of-2017

I feel like its a good snapshot of why I believe everything I said to Bea.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: ultamentkiller on December 07, 2017, 03:22:31 PM
I haven't been able to read much Fantasy in the past couple of months, but for that being a mainstream list, I'm shocked at the titles it doesn't mention. Red Sister by Mark Lawrence is one of the biggest hits in the Fantasy community this year. I would think Age of Swords by Michael J. Sullivan, but I haven't finished it yet so maybe I wouldn't put it on the list. It also didn't get nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award so... I'm not sure when this article was written, but Oathbringer? And I know Demon Cycle is disliked in the major part of the Fantasy community, but the mainstream market seems to love it, so where's The Core?

I did recognize some names, and it gets some credibility in my mind for mentioning Broken Earth, even though I don't like the series. The other authors mentioned are popular, but not I think the ones I mentioned above have more popularity in our community over all.

Edit: Just read your original post. You're definitely right.
Title: Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
Post by: Nighteyes on December 07, 2017, 07:52:56 PM
We read together really recent books. So many quality books coming out every year and children want to read what is current and relates to them. This term we have read Varmints by Helen Ward, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger and Leon and the Place Between by Angela Mcallister.  But we still read the class as well
a retelling of Odysseus planned next term.