So, I thought I’d take a brief break from the heavier stuff and take a look at Fantasy’s younger, slightly retarded (but arguably a lot more successful) brother – YA fantasy.
It’s been getting bigger and bigger for some time now. And of course, herein there will be references to the usual suspects, and so I apologize in advance for the inevitable groaning and eye-rolling. What am I talking about?
The advent of Harry Potter. With the explosion of sales, it really knocked the sleep out of the world’s eyes, made everyone sit up and take notice. There was a time when this category of fiction didn’t even exist – as early as 40 years ago even and books like Catcher in the Rye, now considered a YA classic, existed in a weird in-between marketing place.
Books with young or adolescent teens go back much further than that, of course, with examples like Alice in Wonderland (1865), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1874), The Jungle Book (1894) but there was no specific categorization for them.
So, hey! I’ve been away for a bit and by away, I mean, generally doing nothing…elsewhere. Uni has been the usual demanding whore it’s always been and just recently my internet spazzed out and I’ve been disconnected for a while. But let’s jump back into it, shall we?
A lot of my commentary of late has been about ‘modern’ fantasy, fantasy that’s hard and fast and gritty and darkly funny. And you may be feeling that I’m neglecting the other sides of fantasy, that I’m ignoring or underrating it. That’s not the case at all. I started writing about the modern fantasy mostly as a guide for the uninitiated because I was tired of this false perception of what is mostly outdated fantasy and I wanted to bring some more attention to the current trend. But I love the old style just as much and I think it’s just as good, at its best.
Let me state from the outset that I like both authors and greatly enjoyed their respective works. I’m also going to keep this fairly brief – I’m more interested in hearing others talk about why they find these two to be so great so I can respond in kind. (Some spoilers ahead for those unfamiliar with Martin)
But for the life of me, I cannot fathom why they have garnered such raving praise. It is, for the most part, entirely unwarranted. Let’s start with Rothfuss. He is the author, for those that don’t know, of the book ‘The Name of the Wind’ which is essentially about a legendary figure who lives and runs a bar in some abysmal nothing-town, in which he is naught but a tavern owner. A Chronicler arrives and convinces Kvothe to recount his tale and so we are swept into this “making of the legend” narrative.
It is written in first person, with interesting, fresh descriptions and a generally swift pace that occasionally lags. And it is has received ridiculous praise. I just don’t get why — the story itself isn’t original, and that’s fine, I for one have always been more interested in characters and yet, I feel like I’ve come across and read a thousand Kvothe’s and even the world, to some extent, has very little that is new or interesting. Even the magic system, the process of “naming” to gain power has been seen elsewhere, notably in David Eddings Belgariad series, and the prequel, Belgarath the Sorcerer.
So. In my last post, I mentioned a lack of commentary on the genre as a whole. I have only just started to begin my own, this is all fledgling stuff, but I thought it would be a good idea to start commenting on some of the notable books in the last few years, what’s great, what’s not, and maybe even comment a bit on some of the overrated stuff floating about. I know some of my rambles – seen in the first three posts, were a smidgeon long (ha) so I’ll be brief, promise.
First and foremost: Steven Erikson and his epic Tale of the Malazan Book of the Fallen. What is there *not* to say about this ridiculously talented man? His series redefines the concept of ‘epic’ in ways no other series possibly can. I don’t simply think he’s the best of our time, or that he’s ahead of the rest, I think he’s the best there has ever been and not just by a little – this isn’t something I had to wrangle about endlessly in my mind, he is simply leagues ahead of anyone else. It’s almost embarrassing. I can’t possibly begin to tell you all about his magnificent behemoth of a series, not here, not in brief, so I’ll settle for discussing what I love most about his work.
And no, I’m not referring to the lack of such on this blog, haha. I’m talking about the lack of commentary on fantasy (well-thought out, current, commentary on trends in fantasy, what’s good, what’s not, etcetera). Why the fuck can’t I find anything worthwhile? Am I just lame at searching for it? I put in a search for ‘writing’ here on WordPress and came up with a hundred thousand or more bullshit pages from bullshit people about bullshit and yet putting in ‘fantasy’ or ‘fantasy writing’ pulls up ten half-hearted results, as though even the search engine is saying,
“Really? That’s the best you can do?”
I did find this blog post by a writer, Damien G. Walter , who spoke briefly about the new trends and questioned it. He was responding to this Agony Column podcast. You can see my response in the link provided to Damien’s website. Basically, I wasn’t impressed when the interviewer and interviewee (apparently a top editor at the forefront of fantasy) both mistakenly referred to Terry Goodkind as the author of the Sword of Shannara series.
Seriously, this shit isn’t hard to keep track of, people. And you might be thinking, Omar (that’s my name, by the way) that’s kinda close to what you’re looking for isn’t it? Yes but it was written over a year ago and isn’t that great to begin with, or in-depth. Someone help me out? Is there a goldmine out there I’m missing?
If you know it, link me!