Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Philip Overby, Jan 21, 2014.
Yep, that's it. Just found myself browsing romance when I wanted an orc story...
I'm not sure how much the parallel translates or even how valid the example is. I'm not a music guy, but I'm pretty sure that a lot of artists have crossed over into other genres.
It seems to me that there's a lot of room for a speculative fiction writer to explore different genres. I've read both scifi and fantasy written from the same author, and it's even easier to move across sub genres.
I'm not saying they don't exist elsewhere, I just don't get why they can't exist in fantasy. That's sort of the issue I'm addressing. When people think fantasy, they think epic fantasy almost always. Why is that? Because that's what mainstream publishers have taught us and produced. Anything wrong with that? No. Just fantasy can be such a broad genre if it wants to be. Why does it have to be one thing? Because that's what most people buy? I guess so. My overall point is that self-publishers especially could be in a good position to expand the public's conception to what fantasy is if they wanted to.
When people think of science fiction they think of robots, aliens, and lasers. Does that mean all SF has to be that? I've heard that the movie Her really turns the SF genre on its head and tries to do something with it that's not often done. There's no violence, no insane AI, just a story about a guy that falls in love with his OS. Sounds like it's pretty simple, but also very interesting as well.
Yeah, it doesn't translate all that well. It's more something I was musing on for a bit and felt like sharing.
My point was that, even though a lot of people equate epic fantasy with fantasy, epic fantasy is not all the genre has to offer.
There are tons of people out there who love romantic fantasy. I'm partial to superhero novels (another subgenre of fantasy). I also enjoy reading alternate history (yet another subgenre of fantasy).
There are many, many thriving subgenres out there who get lots of readers. All these subgenres combined make up the overall genre of fantasy.
If you're worried about the perception that epic fantasy is fantasy, I'm not sure what can be done about that. Perception is what it is, and it's difficult to change.
My point is that:
a) there is a market for fantasy subgenres
b) authors are serving those markets
Yeah, I get that. I read pretty widely in different sub-genres, but I still find the prevalence tends toward epic fantasy or more recently even urban fantasy. I agree, not much that can be done (or should be done) about that. My point was that if self-publishers are looking to make a splash on the market their first go out, is putting another epic fantasy book out there always the best option? It's just something to consider for writers who may want to differentiate themselves.
I understand how things are supposed to go. Write the best story and the readers will come. I kind of feel like that's always not enough though. Sometimes an over-saturation of a certain sub-genre (see: paranormal romance) might get a certain kind of backlash against it. For example, if you gave me ten epic fantasy books by debut authors and ten fantasy books in other sub-genres by debut authors, I'd most likely be attracted more by the synopses and samples of the other sub-genres. This is just me though, I know I may not be reflective of the average reader. However, this may not always be the case because the vast majority of what I read is epic fantasy because that's the vast majority of what is being published by both traditional and self-published authors.
Okay. I get this point. From your previous posts, it sounded like you advocated that a new author blaze new ground and break from genre constraints. This statement says that you wonder if it would be better if authors explored other subgenres instead of epic fantasy.
That may not be a bad idea at all. There are many, many established subgenres, each with markets. As long as you understand what the audience of that subgenre is looking for, that may indeed be a good way to make a name for yourself.
For me, I chose epic because it is the story that I want to tell. I like other subgenres, but my first love is epic. Maybe it would be smarter to start with something else, but sometimes it's smarter to go with what your heart wants.
I don't agree with the implication that epic fantasy is somehow played out. The fact is that I have a hard time finding really good epic fantasy tales like the one I'm trying to tell. It would be a completely different story if, when searching for "small town nothing becomes the hero to save the kingdom," I found more highly-recommended books out there than I could ever read.
I don't necessarily think epic fantasy is played out either. The last several books I've bought would be classified as such. There are still a lot of awesome stories that can be told in the sub-genre. It's just that there are already A LOT of epic fantasy books. For me, a writer has to be really doing something to subvert the epic fantasy tropes, the characters, and the plot to get my attention. It's getting harder and harder. That's one reason I have turned to the so-called "grimdark" writers because they offered something different within the form of epic fantasies.
I would love for a group of self-published writers to either invent a new genre (I won't even get into the insane things erotica writers have done), expand on established sub-genres, or dabble with blending genres. To me, as someone who hasn't read a lot of self-published fiction, that would get me more excited about reading those kind of books.
For example, if a group of fantasy writers made irreverent fantasy a la Robert Bevan (who I know we both like) I would be all about that. He's carving out a niche as a self-published writer and doing well for himself (if his sales ranks are an indication.)
Sometimes it takes one author doing something, others thinking it's cool, and then expand on it before a sub-genre can truly become marketable. Sure, this may present the "so and so is copying so and so" effect, but at least it gives readers looking for a certain kind of fantasy more options than they may have previously not had.
China Mieville is a writer I admire a lot. I wonder why more people haven't emulated his style. He's won awards, is successful, and is often praised as an innovator in the genre. Perhaps he's inaccessible for a wider market, but he appeals to a strong niche I think. More writers might try that working in other established sub-genres.
And I'm the exact opposite. I'm looking for traditional epic fantasy tales of a particular variety done really well, and I have a hard time finding them.
Robert Bevan is definitely an exception to this, but, in general, I find too many issues with authors who try to create their own genre. When an author deviates from the norm, I tend to think, "Wow, that story would have been so much better if he'd have done this instead of this."
You're only looking in the self-published realm I take it? I think there are several writers doing epic fantasy in a traditional sense pretty well at the moment in mainstream fantasy. I don't know of too many that jump right out at me as being awesome self-published fantasy writers. I'm sure they exist. I'm reading some stuff at the moment that might classify, but I think we're on polar opposites when it comes what we like.
Phil, last night when I was browsing on my kindle for some books to read, there seemed to be an overwhelming majority of urban fantasy on the virtual shelves. I've read hardly any urban fantasy, so it was interesting to see it come up so much on my recommendations. More of it than epic fantasy, it seems. My guess is that's one direction that fantasy genre is moving.
In my own writing, I like to deal with the quirky. I don't write in medieval times with castles and dragons, although I love that stuff. I prefer a 1700s type setting with some personal twists and I really like to write stories about families, mixing potions, shamanic magic, all with a small cast. I don't know how well my work will do out there in the big world once its published but I like the idea of putting something different out there. Granted, I think its safe to say most, if not ALL, authors feel the same way about their own work.
But I do like the main question you proposed in this thread and I do think the genre has opened up to a variety of stories that are pushing boundaries or what is familiar.
I tend to really dig a specific subset of epic fantasy that features the kid from the small village or farm that grows up to be the all-powerful grand poobah that saves the world (best example: WoT). If you have an example of a good series like that, I'm up for it whether it's traditional or not.
I'm sure you've already checked some of these out, but I'll list them anyway:
The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett
The Deed of Paksnarrion (I think this kind of fits, worth a look anyhow) by Elizabeth Moon
The Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Le Guin
Magician by Raymond E. Feist
The Deathgate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (they're known for their Dragonlance books, but this is supposed to be different, with strong magic and such)
The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman
Those are just some. I haven't read most of these, but when I did a quick search, I found some of these. Maybe your cup of tea, maybe not. Worth a look in any case.
I've read and liked the first two on your list.
The next two, I've heard of but decided not to read. Not sure of my reasoning, but I distinctly remember deciding not to buy them.
I'll check out the last three. Thanks.
I've included urban fantasy in some of my discussion as well, although I've tended to go back to epic fantasy. I do think urban fantasy is becoming more prevalent, but I think a lot of it is getting intertwined in YA. Urban fantasy does tend to try different, neat things that I enjoy. I recently read some of WebMage and really liked it. I put it on my "To Buy" list on my Kindle for when I whittle down some of my books.
The kind of stuff you write sounds like something I'd be interested in reading. Maybe it's just years of reading epic fantasy makes me long for some simpler stories now and again.
Even though I'm not sure what direction I'm going to go in once I decide I want to publish, I do think supporting self-published writers you think are cool is key to success for them. Even if it's one sale here and one sale there, those add up if you can convince people to give them a try. Sometimes for me I just like sharing someone's book. Even if I haven't gotten a chance to read it or it's not my style, I like helping people spread the word if it sounds like a cool book.