December 11, 2017, 07:32:33 AM

Author Topic: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream  (Read 4399 times)

Offline ultamentkiller

Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
« Reply #15 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, 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.

Offline Ryan Mueller

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Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
« Reply #16 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.

Offline Rukaio_Alter

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Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
« Reply #17 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).
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
« Reply #18 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, you're not alone in that love ;D
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Offline Rostum

Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
« Reply #19 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




Offline Yora

Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
« Reply #20 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.
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Offline ClintACK

Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
« Reply #21 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...

Offline Jmack

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Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
« Reply #22 on: November 27, 2015, 04:07:51 PM »
@ultamentkiller, 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.
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Offline Rostum

Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
« Reply #23 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.

Online Eclipse

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Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
« Reply #24 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, 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
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Offline ultamentkiller

Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
« Reply #25 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.

Offline magisensei

Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
« Reply #26 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. 





Offline ClintACK

Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
« Reply #27 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.


Offline Nestat

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Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
« Reply #28 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.
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Offline ultamentkiller

Re: Fantasy Books Gone Mainstream
« Reply #29 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.