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Is Fantasy really doomed to die?

Discussion in 'Novels & Stories' started by Amanita, Jun 29, 2011.

  1. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I'd guess fantasy is as popular now as it ever has been in modern history.
     
  2. Elder the Dwarf

    Elder the Dwarf Maester

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    Really? I love the monologues, it was something different that I hadn't really seen in fantasy before, and I liked to look into Drizzt's philosophically inclined mind. In fact, my signature comes from one of those moments. I do agree, however, that the recent entries have not been nearly as good as the others in the series.
     
  3. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    There aren't any 'rules' like no monologues to violate. If there is any rule I guess it is don't bore your reader.
     
  4. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

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    Amen to that.
     
  5. Ronald T.

    Ronald T. Troubadour

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    I guess I'm the "odd man out" on this issue.

    When I read forums in which so many posts are negative and nit-picking about the continuation of established tropes in Epic Fantasy, I have to wonder if those who complain about the ever-present components of what makes this genre what it is, have simply read too much of it. Perhaps -- for their future enjoyment of the genre -- it's time for those who are tired of what constitutes classic Epic Fantasy to try a different genre for three or four years. As the saying goes..."distance makes the heart grow fonder".

    I realize it's easy to become jaded and unimpressed with almost any aspect of our lives. I absolutely love sushi, but if I have it too often -- I'm talking about two or three times a week -- the excitement and fun of going to a sushi bar no longer holds the same level of enjoyment. So I understand the sentiment of "enough is enough". Of course, if that were to happen, I'd find a different type of restaurant. I wouldn't malign sushi for being what it is.

    I have been reading epic fantasy for nearly forty years, and I do so for the tropes I assume will be there, to experience each new author's variation on those beloved tropes that got me hooked on epic fantasy in the first place -- by far, my genre of choice. I don't mind reading something different, like Patrick Rothfuss' THE NAME OF THE WIND, or Scott Lynch's THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA. They were very enjoyable reads. But when I seek to satisfy my obsession with classic Epic Fantasy, I return to authors who give me the necessary tropes. If I don't find those expected standards in a novel prior to the end, then I feel quite disappointed -- even cheated.

    Whether the subject matter is Epic Fantasy, Science Fiction, mystery, romance, historical, biography, or any other genre -- if you are growing tired of it, then perhaps you need a break. Try reading other genres for a few years. I might allow the magic of Epic fantasy to return when you start reading it again.

    But what do I know? I'm just a hermit in the woods.

    My best to you all.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2015
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  6. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Ronald,

    I think you're probably right.

    Over at another forum, "lessons learned" posts are quite popular. You know the type - "Hey, I've started publishing a year ago, and this is what I wish I'd known then:"

    One of the main lessons learned that's repeated over and over is that, if you want to sell books, you have to give the readers what they expect. Not incorporating the standard tropes is heralded as a big reason for the failure of many a novel.
     
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  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    @BWFoster I think it is largely down to the skill of the author as well. A lot of readers really like innovative books that break boundaries and blaze new paths, etc. And there are some very good such works that have done well with readers. The problem is, it is not easy to go that route, so if you're going to do it your skill as a writer has to be all the greater because whatever new path you're blazing you have to be able to make it work. For a lot of writers, I suspect going with the standard tropes is going to help them because they've got decades of work that has been done for them within the genre. If you take readers out of that comfort zone, you have to be really good at what you're doing.
     
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  8. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I think that, if the author isn't skilled, no book is going to enjoy any amount of real success.

    All I know is that post after post of people who have tried to sell books in the real world say this (paraphrased, quotes for ease of reading only):

    I do not dispute this fact in any way, form, or fashion.

    Exactly. If you're blazing a new trail, how do readers find that trail? If you follow the conventions, it's easy to find the readers who like the conventions; simply go to the bestseller lists. Thus, it's easy to sell those books.

    I have no idea how you sell an original book. There are tons of example of how to sell conventional books.
     
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  9. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    As a general rule, probably. There are exceptions, I think. For example, I downloaded a sample of Chuck Wendig's contribution to the Star Wars universe, Aftermath. And I have to say the writing quality is pretty poor. But no doubt it's going to sell a lot because Star Wars :)
     
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  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Ask Mark Danielewski, I guess. Have you read House of Leaves? It's an original book, to the extent that it even throws rules of grammar and how to format the book out the window. Yet not only did it sell well, you have NY Times critics calling it the most profound book written by an American in this century. Not the most profound fantasy novel. Book, period.

    Which isn't to suggest that any given person has to like that novel, but it does show that unconventional books can sell. Other examples, in my view, would be Nabokov and David Foster Wallace.
     
  11. RupamGrimoeuvre

    RupamGrimoeuvre Scribe

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    Sums up just about everything I was about to write.
     
  12. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Here's where I'm coming from: it is not easy to get a book noticed in today's publishing environment. Period. Right now, I'm not even going to try to do much promotion at all until I get the 3rd novel published in my primary series.

    Even if readers like my writing and I figure out promotions and the books conform well to the genre expectations, there is still no guarantee that I'll ever be able to quit my day job.

    Were I to go off the reservation and just write whatever I wanted with no regard for the audience, my chances of success would plummet. That's what every resource I can find is telling me.

    Sure, the authors you mention found success that way. Some people find success buying lottery tickets (I keep hoping that I'll be one of them!). I don't think, however, I should count on hitting those six numbers to fund my retirement. It's much better to sock money away in a 401(k) every month.

    Again, I don't hear a lot of voices out there who have tried it saying, "Your best route to success is to be original." In fact, I literally hear the exact opposite from people who have real experience in the marketplace.
     
  13. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I don't disagree with any of this. So, it depends on your goal. If you want to write mainstream commercial fiction to try to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, that's great. And there are certain ways you should approach how you write, what you write about, and so on.

    Some people don't want to write that sort of thing. Some of those writers who want to be as original and unconventional as possible would still like to sell a lot of books, even knowing they have a harder road ahead of them. Others don't even care that much about sales or readership, they just want to write what they want to write and get it out to an audience that will like it, even if it is a small one.

    So, when you're looking at questions of tropes, archetypes, and fulfilling standard genre expectations, or really any other aspect of how you go about writing your book, you have to start by looking at the goal of the author. Your goal, from what I can gather, is to write commercial fiction that appeals to a broad audience. Nothing wrong with that goal - I read a lot of that kind of fiction. But I also read a lot of fiction that wants nothing to do with being commercial or appealing to large audiences, and I'm glad that stuff is out there as well and wouldn't discourage a writer from writing that way if they want to.
     
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  14. Ronald T.

    Ronald T. Troubadour

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    I have to say I probably disagree with more than half the stuff critics write on the page or say on TV. Clearly, my taste in what the world has to offer is a distant cry from their points of view.

    The problem with most paid critics -- whether they are in news papers or on TV -- is that they are paid to sensationalize their work. Not always, but far too often, they are at one end of the spectrum or another on so many issues, including but not limited to books, movies, restaurants, clothes, music, and politics.

    There is nothing wrong with having an opinion. The problem arises when we take someone else's opinion too seriously.

    Remember, critics, by their very description, are jaded. So, when they find something they haven't seen before, it's as if they blow an O-ring in trying to convince the public that it's the greatest thing since the discovery of penicillin.

    Throughout my life, I've listened to people I didn't know that well tell me they were an expert in this...or they could do a certain thing...or that they had years of experience in one field or another. Then after awhile, I'd discover that none of what they said was actually true.

    So, when it comes to so-called experts, I've become somewhat of a "Doubting Thomas". If a critic says something is "very good" or "very bad" and it turns out to be true, then I'm ahead of the game. But what if they're wrong? Then it's too late. I've bought a poorly written book, or I've gone to a terrible movie, or I've wasted my money on a restaurant I can't believe can stay in business, or the converse, I might miss out on something I could've enjoyed tremendously. Now, my attitude is: let me find out for myself.


    I realize that's their job. But I always take it with a large grain of salt. I'm the type who likes to judge the world by my own standards, not by those who are paid to exaggerate. If I'm wrong in my choices, I have no one to blame but me.

    But like I said earlier, what do I know? I'm just a hermit in the woods.

    Once again, all my best.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2015
  15. Russ

    Russ Istar

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    It depends on what marketplace you are talking about. I think you are talking about the self-publishing market place.

    Some traditional publishers have been replacing acquiring editors in the spec fic (and other) fields because they have not brought in enough original projects that they believe can be made successful. That's right, acquiring editors have been released and reprimanded for not buying enough new works by their employers.

    The editors in question suggest they are not seeing enough quality original work to keep their employers happy.

    Those editors are in a tough spot. If they don't bring along enough projects they catch it. If the projects they bring along don't sell, that doesn't help either. They are looking for quality original work to buy and promote.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2015
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  16. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    If you look at a lot of the traditional publishing guidelines, the editors are saying they want new, fresh, original material. Whether they're actually buying it is a separate question, I suppose, but I feel like there has been a fair amount of originality in published fantasy in the last few years.
     
  17. I highly doubt that the fantasy genre is going to die. Mankind has been telling fantastic stories through the ages. The pantheon of gods as told by various cultures such as the Norse, Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, etc, are what keep this genre thriving. Mankind has a fascination with the impossible and otherwordly, and it's that passion which drives what we do. As long as their is that hunger for the fantastical, there will always be new fantasy books hitting the shelves.
     
  18. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Absolutely. I have no idea what agents and publishers are looking for.
     
  19. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    First off: nobody panic. Fantasy is not "dying". It's simply changing. Over the past couple decades fantasy has started to look less like medieval Europe and more like any one of innumerable variations: new kinds of worlds, new subgenres, new voices. This is cause for celebration, not concern. It's a sign of life, not death. After all, living things change. Tolkienesque/D&D high fantasy used to be the only game in town. Now it isn't. Even if you like the traditional style, that's good news. If every new fantasy book, film franchise, or video game IP that came out looked exactly like the one before it, then we would have cause to be worried about the death of fantasy. The western died, in my opinion, because it stagnated. The same basic stories over and over with few innovations. People got bored of it. Fantasy's ever-evolving nature makes that fate unlikely. The specific kind of fantasy that you prefer may not be in vogue, but that doesn't mean it's going away. It's just sharing the stage with lots of other kinds of fantasy now.
     
  20. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

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    Fantasy isn't going to die. Even the Westerns didn't die. They just don't have the influence they once did. And even then, Western themed fiction has been able to do quite well. The remake of True Grit is one on the film front, while Red Dead Redemption is one as far as video games go. And there are works in other genres that use Western themes and combine it with elements of their parent genre, leaving us with the Space Western and Weird West/Six-Guns and Sorcery. So if the Western can still influence other genres and come out with a few big successes, why would Fantasy do worse when it as a genre is in much better health?
     
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