Thoughtful Thursday: Death of a Genre

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsThat’s it. It’s done. With the publication of a new version of the classic Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte sporting a cover to make it look like a Twilight novel, and a cover blurb proclaiming it to be Edward and Bella’s favorite book, I hereby declare Twilight dead. Or undead. I don’t care, it’s just over.

Fantasy has always been cyclical. I read an interview with Midori Snyder in which she said that fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsshe wrote the Oran trilogy (which you should all go read. Right now. I’m serious about that.) because at the time she came on the scene as a fantasy author, it was just expected that you would write a trilogy, so she did. So, I don’t feel bad about saying that this cycle is officially over. It’s time for something beyond vampires, whether they be brooding or bestial, dreamy or demonic, being slain or being seduced. It’s just time for something new.

So, dear readers, my question to you is: If you could only read variations on the same novel for the next five years, what kind of novel would you want it to be? Or, more politely, what under-appreciated fantasy sub-genre most deserves to go viral?

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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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  1. That Wuthering Heights cover is just…disturbing. Here, I thought it was bad enough that the latest edition of Interview with the Vampire looks vaguely Twilight-y.

    When I think about the books I’ve adored this year, there is a common thread. The majority of them are set in the modern day, but they’re not the type of all-action-all-the-time urban fantasy that’s currently trendy. They tend to have sort of a contemplative pace at first, setting up lots of characterization and multilayers of plot, and all heck doesn’t break loose till later (though it’s foreshadowed). It’s a tough line to walk, because if they start TOO slow, boredom results. But when it’s done right, it’s so much more intense for me because I love the characters by the time the author starts torturing them! :)

    Elfland is like that, Jasmyn is like that, all of Maggie Stiefvater’s books are like that, etc. Fire and Hemlock is one of my favorite oldies, for the same reasons. Charles de Lint does this in his best books. I love the contemporary settings, but I don’t need guns and car chases and stuff all the time! I’d rather see tough choices, and perilous deals with the faeries where the way you phrase things could change everything…oh, and incorporating the arts into the story is a love of mine, too (make the protag a writer, painter, musician, etc.).

  2. Have you read de Lint’s The Mystery of Grace? It is very similar to what you have described. I reviewed it for the site earlier this year and loved it. Easily one of the best books I’ve read this year.

  3. I haven’t yet, but I keep meaning to! :) There have been a few of his books I’ve been “meh” about, but when he’s good, he’s very very good. *goes to add to TBR list on goodreads*

    My favorites of his so far have been Someplace to be Flying, Memory and Dream…oh, and I adored the ending of Jack the Giant-Killer, and I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

  4. Those are my three exact favorites from him, so I think you’ll like Mystery of Grace. You’re right, some of his stuff is just meh, but some of his stuff is amazing.

  5. What happen to the anti-hero barbarian fantasy. Fantasy seems to have gone too soft. There are a few good modern fantasy writers that go gritty; Joe Abercrombie and George R.R. Martin come to mind. Those two seem to think gritty and violent means tragic and depressing, and are hell bent to decimate every character you might possibly grow to like. Where’s my Conan!? It’s about time for a Conan comeback, just you wait. By Crom! I’ve got my loin cloth and over-compensating broadsword ready.

  6. “I’ve got my loin cloth and over-compensating broadsword ready.”

    Can you upload a picture of that?

  7. Sarah /

    Dragons of course. We need more dragons. Vampires do seem to be starting to give way to werewolves and zombies. At least in the YA side of things. I think the shift from here will be back to high fantasy of the elves and wizards variety.
    I’m not sure it will ever go back to the Conan type. The space marine genre seems to have taken Conan’s place as the warrior hero type.

  8. Maxx, you might want to try Chris Evans’s Iron Elves books. There’s some nice anti-hero action in those.

    And of course we need more dragons. I can’t remember the last time I read a good dragon story.

  9. I’ll do the internet a favor and not upload anything that involves me and a loin cloth.

    I do kind of miss some good classic fantasy with barbarians, dragons, wizards, pointy eared elves..etc. The stories became so cliche’ that authors now avoid them like the plague, and they probably should. Though it would be nice to see a well written fantasy using classical themes.

  10. Sarah /

    I’ve actually read three different author’s who have dragons that are shapechangers. They can assume human form. I don’t know if it’s the latest trend in dragons or I’m just managing to find them all. They were all three different styles of fantasy… alternate history (don’t want to mention the name), urban fantasy (C.E. Murphy) and other world with multiple races (Michele Sagara). I liked the dragons in all three, but the alternate history author got her book tossed due to sheer awfulness of the story. None have been the main character though.

    Oh wait, I just thought of a 4th author. One of Lorna Freeman’s character’s shapechanges into a dragon, too.

    If there are at least 4, does that make it a trend? Or is it just me reaching for dragons wherever I can find them?

  11. I think you just seek out dragons. Or they seek you out. Whatever you do, avoid Elizabeth Kerner’s dragon books. I don’t care how much you like dragons. They just aren’t worth it.

  12. I’ve never actually read Fritz Leiber, but I think it’s time I do. I’m familiar with him, but just never got around to reading his work.

  13. Steven Erikson has some shape-changing dragons too. Maybe it IS a trend.

  14. Now that I am thinking about it, there are dragons in Tanya Huff’s The Enchantment Emporium. Is Sarah psychic? Has she identified the nascent strands of the next Twilight?

  15. Maxx/Justin, If you listen to audiobooks, the Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser series that audible does is excellent.

  16. I have been a Vampire junkie since I was 12 and first read Interview With The Vampire but I am personally proud to say I have not read any of the Twilight Series. I agree though that the Vamp Bandwagon is overflowing at this point and even I regretfully think we need a break. What bothers me most is that many Vamp books that came out long before Ms.Meyer made them sparkle are generally thought to be riding her coat tails. My heart breaks over the new Interview cover – that is a travesty! I am currently in love with all things Urban Fantasy, Almost any Fae, Steampunk & Dystopian and/or post-apocalyptic. In regards to the Fae books they only work for me when there is intrigue in the Fae courts and every utterance must be carefully structured so as not to end up in a perilous situation (as candacis said).
    I do love dragons though so I would be happy with more Dragons in my books – about to read some C.E. Murphy.

  17. Probably not psychic, but I do like dragons. I started collecting dragons about the same time that unicorns really took off back in the 70’s – yes that makes me old. I liked the fact that they were so much harder to find. So I do watch for them to show up in books. And I don’t like reading books or watching movies where the dragon is evil and must be destroyed.
    If I had to pick one fantasy world to live in, it would probably be Pern.

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