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Has fantasy become disenchanted and detached in the last 20 years?

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by Yora, Jan 9, 2020.

  1. Yora

    Yora Inkling

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    For some reason, most contemporary fantasy isn't really doing it for me. Since I was just born in the 80s, my perception of fantasy in the 80s and 90s is probably greatly distorted, and I am only remembering examples that left a deep impression with me.

    But something that I keep looking for but can't seem to find in more recent fantasy works is the sense of magical wonder and emotional earnesty that I not only remember but still see when looking at old books and movies.
    I totally accept it if people say stories from that period are simplistic, implausible, or childish. A good number of them certainly were. But they still were full of enthusiasm and passion for brave heroics, even when they were dumb. The most extreme case would probably be He-Man. But I am also thinking of The Last Unicorn, Conan the Adventurer, and Record of Lodoss War, or the early Drizzt books. I've never really watched Hercules or Xena, and I heard they were rather bad and campy, but they really looked like fun.

    In contrast to that, more recent fantasy seems to be much more interested in being more realisitic, grittier, and grim. There is plenty of great action that is certainly cool, but I usually don't see any genuine joy in them. It feels like fun and wonder are being looked down upon and fantasy has to be serious grim business. There are jokes, but they are sarcastic and without joy.

    It could very well be that I am just not finding the right fantasy books or shows that are around these days. But I feel like I've been looking pretty far and wide over the last years, and all the series that get commonly recommended sound very grim and stern.
    Just me, or is there something to it?

    And why is it you can't edit dumb typos in the tread title?
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2020
  2. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Maybe it's an age & maturity thing.

    I'm in a similar boat. I find myself needing to resist the VERY STRONG URGE to scream at people: "Fantasy is a child's pastime!! Put away childish things!! All this make-believe is stupid!!" It's not that I actually think this. Not quite. But a lot of the charm has gone, in the way that 90% of the songs playing on the radio—makes no difference the genre or era—seem targeted at the young people and now bore me. Even the hits I loved before are often tedious. I had to turn off Christmas music this year, heh. I suspect I'm an old fogey.

    BUT. This doesn't actually describe all I do. I still love watching a good fantasy movie or television show, or playing a fantasy-based video game. But these are different types of enjoyment.
     
  3. Yora

    Yora Inkling

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    Some relevant links I came across today:

    What Writers Should Learn From Wonder Woman
    The Dark Crystal and the Resurgence of Sincerity
    David Foster Wallace was right: Irony is ruining our culture

    Apparently my perception was distorted by my age in that older people seem to place the start of the issue at the beginning of the 90s, not the 2000s. I guess being mostly exposed to children entertainment made me unaware of what was going on in mature works.

    Sincerity seems to be a really good word for what I mean. (Since earnisty is not a dictionary term.)
     
  4. Aldarion

    Aldarion Sage

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    Personally, I find that good fantasy never gets old... and person never gets old for good fantasy. Thing is, fantasy is, ultimately, an exercise in escapism. It is a different world to which you go in order to escape a real world. You can see this most obviously in older, pre-Tolkien fantasy, such as Alice in Wonderland or Chronicles of Narnia - characters are literally thrown into another world from our own. But even Tolkienian fantasy, which features fictional characters in a fictional world, is still escapist.

    That is why a deeply realistic fantasy holds less (I would not say no, however) appeal. It is simply too close to real world to offer that sense of escape to an extent that less realistic fantasy can.
     
  5. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Troubadour

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    Without knowing all books you've read it's hard to go in to specifics. But I do get some general thoughts

    Everything was better in the past
    People have a habit of romanticizing the past and their own childhood. Music was better, books were better... Part of it is that only the good stuff is remembered. All the crappy books released in the 80s have long since disappeared.

    My father has a whole collection of 60's and 70's pulp fantasy and scifi books. And I can tell you, 90% (if not more) of the are awful. They're fun to read if you're looking for a crap, weird and completely unbelievable plot. Almost anything published today is better than those stories.

    Sense of wonder
    Children have a huge sense of wonder. Everything is new for a child. So everything you read as a child can evoke a sense of wonder. My kids (2 and 4) got a book for Christmas that has the two main characters named after them. The story itself is not very different from any other kids story. But they think it's amazing. The wonder that you can have a book with the main character be you is awesome.

    The same can go for many books you read as you grow older. All fantasy worlds are new and exiting. There's magic! and dragons! and far-away places. There's great adventures and quests. A problem arises when stuff is no longer new. At some point you've seen many of the tropes of the genre. You can only read about so many dragons before you know what they are and they can do. There's few fresh magic systems out there. The sense of wonder disappears bit by bit.

    trends
    Success breads success and people and companies like latching on to trends. It's why there was lots of Tolkienesk fantasy in the 80's and 90's. It's why there's a lot of Game of Thrones look-a-likes around and why there were too many vampire novels a couple of years ago. A trend could be that fantasy at the moment is dark and gritty. And when you move 5 years there's a different trend. and there's always authors that go against the trend. And some even start a new trend by doing so.

    In the end, it depends on what you consider dark and gritty and what period you use for recent. I consider Terry Pratchett recent. And I find his books fairly light and joyful. I found Trudi Canavan's books also pretty light. Which is not to say there aren't any dark and gritty books out there. Just that not all of them are.

    I personally think that Fantasy as a genre is in a better place then it was in pretty much any time in the past. There's more good writers writing it in more varied worlds and styles then there was in the past. There's better films and series. It's not for everyone, but then nothing ever is.
     
    FifthView and Aldarion like this.
  6. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I take a slightly different view. Maybe as we grow older, either more settled into our lives or more focused on irl needs, the need or desire for escape diminishes. Or else, the type of escape we want changes. Dunno. This is certainly true of me, but I can't speak for everyone.

    For instance, nowadays I tend to desire cerebral newness—new ideas, concepts, philosophical explorations—and simply having a new magic du jour or fantasy race du jour or fantasy realm du jour doesn't cut it for me. All that stuff used to trap me easily, heh, and I searched for it, wanting to be trapped. But my needs have changed.
     
  7. Yora

    Yora Inkling

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    But there's nothing for me. That's what annoys me. :D
     
  8. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

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    You can, but you have a time limit to edit it. If you want it fixed, your friendly neighborhood Mods like yours truly would more than happy to edit it at your earliest convenience. Just send me a PM stating what you’d like it to say and I’ll fix it for you. ;)
     
  9. Yora

    Yora Inkling

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    I spotted it immediately after posting, but I tried to edit it just seconds later and there's no field for editing the title.

    Distached is not a word.
     
  10. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Troubadour

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    For me, fantasy is still alive, and I love fantasy written in the 60s and still find things I love today. Perhaps you need a refresh with other genres (or something different from reading altogether).
     
  11. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Troubadour

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    As I grow older I seem to get less settled, so it could be one of the reasons I still love fantasy. The rich imagination of good fantasy is another reason.
     
  12. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

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    I apologize for misstating that members can edit titles. That’s something we’re working on. However, I’ve gone ahead and hopefully fixed it to your liking. If not, let me know what you’d like it to say and I’ll change it.
     
  13. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Troubadour

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    One current trend that might play in to this is that magic systems over the years have become a bit "harder". I've seen more rule based magic around. It's rare to come across a Gandalf-like character which can do awesome stuff because he's a wizard, but other than that, we have no clue how or why or what he can do.
     
    Yora likes this.
  14. Yora

    Yora Inkling

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    Every sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.
     
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