Question for Our Readers: Fantasy Going Mainstream

23 Sep

“The Golden Age of Science Fiction is twelve.”

-David Hartwell

I heard it proposed the other day that therefore the Golden Age of Fantasy is also twelve. However, some have said the Golden Age of Fantasy, in a less abstract sense, is right now.

Fantasy as a genre has become far more mainstream in the past few years. From Harry Potter mania, to Twilight diehards, to Tangled, How to Train Your Dragon, and the HBO adaption of the Game of Thrones series, fantasy has definitely experienced an increase in popularity. But is ‘going mainstream’ bad for the genre?

Do you think that Fantasy is losing the quality it once had, or is the quality, along with the quantity, increasing? What trends in modern Fantasy are you in love with? What trends to do you despise?

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8 Responses to “Question for Our Readers: Fantasy Going Mainstream”

  1. Rosie G. September 23, 2011 at 11:33 AM #

    Oooh this is a really good question. I love reading fantasy and sci-fi they make up the main body of my personal library so I am really enjoying the fact that it is gaining popularity at the moment. It means i can share recommendations for books and series that i loved but nobody else had read! I also quite like the satisfaction of making a friend read a series that i loved, especially if they fight me on it but eventually caved. I can be smug and say ‘i told you that you would enjoy it’.

    I don’t think that the quality is decreasing in most fantasy (there are some exceptions to this rule obviously) but instead, as with game of thrones (which i have started reading recently) good fantasy is being brought to the attention of people who might not otherwise have discovered it which is great it’s not just about new fantasy but also series that have been around for a while but are not as well known.

    The only thing i hate is when a trend goes too far, like the vampire trend started off great but now it feels as though you can’t get away from vampires.

    As a last point i think it is great because as a child i read books alot and fantasy was my favourite genre and like many readers, i’m sure, sometimes this led to some hurtful comments from other children about being a geek or a nerd etc so with the popularity increasing at least children can feel like reading can be ‘cool’ and part of the current trends.

    • savannahjfoley September 23, 2011 at 11:44 AM #

      I feel like I had a lot of MIND-BLOWINGLY AWESOME AND I’LL LOVE IT FOREVER reads as a kid, and found fewer as an adult. However, my standards are a lot higher these days, and there have been some noticeable amazing reads, like Finnikin of the Rock. I’m also loving Dia Reeves right now.

      Have fun with Game of Thrones! That’s definitely been a huge life-saver in my adult fantasy reading life.

      The thing about vampires… Okay, I admit it, I’m a vampire fan. I think the whole grappling with humanity and immortality is really neat, and I loved the Anne Rice series. I’m not personally burnt out on vampires, just some of the stereotypes of the genre… suspecting someone’s a vampire, in denial that vampires exist, see evidence, try to get converted, deal with enemies, etc. I thought Rice’s take on immortality was really interesting, with some of the older vampires having to ‘hibernate’ to recharge. I’d imagine that eventually life and humans would become incredibly boring because you’ve seen it all before. Also I’d love to see a story where the really hot young-looking guy is internally all old and crotchety because he’s lived 95 years. And who thinks teen girls are all inexperienced airheads, lol.

      And I am ALL FOR reading being ‘cool’. Wow, how amazing would that be?

  2. Kae September 23, 2011 at 12:34 PM #

    There’s definitely more overlap, though, particularly in the YA genre. There’s more ‘general fiction’ fantasy. But things like the Harry Potter franchise – they’ve created their OWN streams, not fit into a befuddling middle.

    But fantasy isn’t really that new, either, when it comes down to the base term. I think we’ve just found new ways to approach it; there’s definitely an insane amount of subgenres (Urban, Historical, Epic, Dark, Gaslamp…you name it). And with that and the way it’s spread into other genres (the ‘Paranormal’ Romance, for ex) in the past few decades, I think that the quality of the genre as a whole has gone up, if only because its breadth has widened. And when a genre is more categorically open, or shifts into something that allows for new perspective, we CAN see that as a bit of a publishing paradigm shift, can’t we? : )

    That’s also why I think that it’s becoming more accessible – the more perspectives available from the same genre (I mean, let’s stick Gaiman, Le Guin and Hobb in a room together…), the more people are going to be interested. So rather than the entire genre moving into a mainstream and seeking readers/watchers there, it’s opening itself to people outside of it, who gravitate towards it because now it’s finally SAYING something to them.

    I wouldn’t say that the Golden Age is now, though. A lot of fantasy that’s coming out is a reinterpretation or translation of ideas and stories that have come before. Which, of course happens in every genre. But it’s GROWING which I think will allow for more innovation – it HAS been a good fifteen years since HP was born. But then, I hope it doesn’t hit a Golden Age. I hope it just keeps growing and reinventing and becoming a harder, faster, stronger better genre of supermegafoxyawesomehot. ; DDD

    PERSONALLY I’m hoping for more 19th C fantasy. It seems to be growing, too. o 3o Buuut I also am kind of biased for hoping that.

    • savannahjfoley September 23, 2011 at 12:41 PM #

      I really like what you said about the expansion of the different genres. I’ve just started saying that I write ‘speculative’ fiction because staying in one, tiny micro-niche is not something I’m capable of.

      • Kae September 23, 2011 at 1:03 PM #

        Yeah, me neither. D : The only consistency between my brainbabies is that they’re not contemp, plain romance, or horror.

        Speculative Fiction is a doubleawesome word though. Both more fancehsounding and more loosetermed. > D

  3. Susan September 23, 2011 at 12:35 PM #

    I agree that I remember more MIND-BLOWING books from childhood than I find today…but I think that has a LOT to do with (as you note) lower standards. I would read any and everything as a kid, but I’m much pickier as an adult. And since I became a writer, I became MUCH MUCH MUCH pickier. 🙂

    I feel like fantasy is changing–we have more paranormal and urban fantasy, particularly in YA. What was a staple in adult fantasy/sci-fi–the high fantasy realm of literature–is now showing up in YA (and I’m very happy about this). But we’re also seeing new, more diverse takes on fantasy (e.g. BLOOD RED ROAD or EON). Plus, dystopian is taking sci-fi into a new direction for the YA crowd. I love that we have more and more choices!

    As for quality, well…there’s good and bad as there has always been. I can think of a few stinkers I read growing up, and I can think of some stinkers now. The target audience changes, and so do the writers.

    All in all, I’m happy with where it’s going. 😀

  4. Aurora Blackguard September 24, 2011 at 5:38 AM #

    I was SO lucky to get fantasy stuff. But I do think that a lot of the mainstream fantasy YA out there now is kind of polluting the idea of fantasy. Everyone now pinpoints fantasy as something bad and low grade, or Twilight-tinted. It’s not that Twilight is terrible (it’s not, honestly). It’s just that people now tend to think that fantasy must be like that. And I agree so much with Sooz. It’s so hard to DEFINE fantasy now. It’s become either saturated or diluted but in a good way 🙂 saturated that we have such a range and diluted in the sense where it doesn’t have to be given certain boundaries. I’ll avoid talking about how people are now still looking down on fantasy (ahem, certain ‘professional’ writers and teachers) but it’s great that it’s being given more exposure. ROCK ON, fantasy!

  5. Kate Cornett September 25, 2011 at 8:59 PM #

    This could just be me, but I haven’t noticed very many new epic fantasy novels in the YA section within the last couple years. There have been some, but not nearly as many as you would find in the adult sci-fi/fantasy section. Of course, the only reason I could be noticing this is because I’m an epic fantasy nerd. =P

    One trend that I have noticed recently is the re-release of old books. To name just a few, I’ve recently picked up the Song of the Lioness quartet, Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and Obernewtyn Chronicles in spiffy new covers. It makes me happy that they are trying to promote these books to the new generations, otherwise I might have never heard of them!

    Btw, the Obernewtyn Chronicles rocks! It’s a series done by an Australian author so not many people have heard of it. But if you like high fantasy, strong female leads and falling just as much in love with the lead male as the MC does, then this is the series for you! (Sorry, I can’t stop gushing about this series!)

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