This article is by Frank LaVoie.
For those of you not familiar with the YA moniker, it refers to the genre of Young Adult literature. In the realm of publishing, it is most often coupled with the word ‘fantasy’, thus denoting a fairly specific breed that has proven its popularity in the form of the Harry Potters and Percy Jacksons of the literary world. The growing scope of YA Fantasy has been wholly responsible for an entire generation taking to books. Even medical science has had to pay attention; they credited Rowling’s works with the highly contagious Hogwart’s headache, onset by nonstop reading of the author’s seven-hundred-word whoppers.
But does the rising fashion-ability of YA Fantasy come at a price?
Many young adult and adult readers didn’t discover the wonders and curiosities of fantasy and science fiction novels in the YA world. We found our love for this sort of endeavor with classics by authors such as J.R.R Tolkien and Robert Jordan. Some of us even trace this affection back to Edmund Spencer and Shakespeare.
We continued reading fantasy in a society where fantasy authors wrote for adults and their novels were found in the normal fiction section of our local libraries and bookstores. Many of us expanded our interests, flocking to gaming and other pursuits. But our first love was what publishers label as Epic or High Fantasy. In this genre, we met our elven friends, our grumpy dwarven companions, and our nemesis the evil sorcerer.
Despite the unusual nature of our desired reading, it came with a certain quality. The lexicon, the syntax, and the high-literary value of many of these works was something that most ‘kids’ didn’t quite get. To read and understand them was a challenge and an accomplishment. Reading Tolkien as a kid while others were tackling Where the Red Fern Grows came with a knowledge that we were more advanced readers – if nothing else.
As an author and someone who follows these genres in the publishing industry, I am noting an obvious trend. As YA Fantasy becomes more popular and in demand, Epic Fantasy is on decline. It still exists in the longer-running series and in some best-selling authors, but more new material comes in the form of YA. It’s the marketable thing to do.
Now, I have nothing against YA Fantasy. I could even see myself writing one. Like many others, I love and aspire to the abilities of Rowling and others like her. And although her pieces became increasingly dark, they don’t contain the true grit of Epic Fantasy. Sometimes I want to see blood, smell death, and feel the sexual tension that might even be expressed in Chapter 1. I want a battle axe to split a skull and a brain matter to splatter across the page as I read. And, I want it all done with a vocabulary and structure that excludes some readers. Sorry.
One thing that I always appreciated about Epic Fantasy was its exclusivity. Not everyone could read it.
My best friend and writing buddy just published an amazing YA Fantasy called Dreamworld. His world inspires me and his writing is simultaneously suspenseful, humorous, and creative. I am not bashing the world of YA Fantasy, as I wish him and others nothing but great success.
I just love my hack and slash. I love the epics that set me apart as a reader. I loved ‘getting’ Tolkien’s Oxford diatribes.
I’m worried that Epic Fantasy will become mythology. So I wrote one. I hope others do as well. And I hope one day to see one of those new novels in the hands of a kid who knows he’s different, special.
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