Friday, July 16, 2010

What do you look for high in fantasy?

Hello everyone.

Over on a forum I'm a member of, the fantastic, the question has been asked: Is there a market for high fantasy anymore?

It is an interesting question. It is always a challenge to get agented and published (though agents and publishers say a basic grasp of grammar will take you a long way in the slush pile) but some writers are saying high fantasy is getting harder and harder to break into.

This is strange considering high fantasy is one of the most popular genres. Lord of the Rings, The Wheel of Time, The Belgariad, A Song of Ice and Fire and The Sword of Truth are massive worldwide. It seems whenever a high fantasy epic comes along it is devoured by fans in an instant.

Word on the metaphorical street is "Tolkienesque" fantasy is on the wane. "Tolkienesque" fantasy encompasses different things depending on who you talk to, but that is a whole new post. I suspect this view is largely due to snobbery from some writers, along with some writer's hate towards farmboy saves the world. Looking at the list above, I see some very popular farmboys. Of course, Jordan gave his farmboy and his prophecies some twists, but I digress.

"Tokienesque" and farmboy fantasy (sometimes they are labelled as being the same) are selling. So is fantasy along the lines of A Song of Ice and Fire. There appears to be room for everything. Millions of fans are waiting patiently for Jordan's Towers of Midnight and Martin's A Dance with Dragons.

A counter argument is the men above started their series in the 1990s, which is up to twenty years ago. They say today is all about urban fantasy.

It is a decent arugment, but Brandon Sanderson (who is finishing The Wheel of Time for Jordan) is about to release The Ways of Kings, an epic high fantasy projected to last ten installments. If the 90s classics (and indeed, LOTR is still as popular today as ever) are still selling in droves, I think the market is keen for more.

Then there is the approaching void in the general fantasy market. Twilight, Harry Potter, and Sword of Truth are finished. In three or four years The Wheel of Time will end. Who knows, maybe even Martin will finish ASoIaF. High fantasy fans will want new material.

Now the torch is being passed, what do the fans want in high fantasy? We've heard writers beg for new ideas in the market, but the market at the moment is devouring everything. Would you like more of the same, more of the same with a twist, something mind blowing orginal, or a mixture of both?

I would also be genuinely interested to hear the views of an agent or an editor on this. They're readers too, and it's thanks to their efforts we get the opportunity to share our work with the world. Does the industry have any particular likes and dislikes?


  1. I haven't read high fantasy in a long time because I feel like it does tend to fall into tropes very easily - ie farmboy saves the world. Which is too bad, because I like the genre and I think it could have some interesting things done to it.

    So, for me, the same with a twist or mind-blowingly original. I'd like seeing that. :)

  2. For high fantasy I don't like mind-blowingly original. I have sci-fi for that. I think they are crazy to say there is no market for high fantasy now. They would have to point out some really good high fantasy books that didn't sell before I would even begin to believe them. That doesn't even take into account that the Hobbit movies and Martin's A Game of Thrones are slated to come out in the next few years. I think they just don't want to sell these books for some snobbish reason. For everyone out there who wants a really original fantasy, there is someone like me who loves the Tolkienesque D&D type stuff we grew up with.

  3. Pfft, there's nothing wrong with a good farmboy! I love farmboy saves the world type novels, almost as much as I enjoy tragic-hero saves the world type novels.

    I really enjoy reading David Gemmell, Jennifer Fallon, George R R Martin etc but after finishing their stuff, there really isn't a whole lot of "new stuff" to follow on with. There are lots of wonderful fantasy novels that were written decades ago, but it seems that there is a shortage of new material.

    I would love to see new fantasy novels! I for one would definitely read them. I have mixed tastes when it comes to reading, but I have always enjoyed the escapism that a good high fantasy offers.

    Eileen McILwain