Yesterday E. D. Kain posted on TheAtlantic.com, “Fantasy’s Spell on Pop Culture: When Will It Wear Off?” an article about how the booming success of fantasy books and adaptations in the last decade might soon come to a slow-down, if not an actual end. How will authors and producers top the fame of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, Twilight, and the recently acclaimed HBO series “Game of Thrones,” based on the novels by George R. R. Martin?
I believe that the answer regarding fantasy’s future is deceivingly simple: Those who only enjoy the movies are more likely to grow tired and bored with similar releases, but true fantasy fans will always be ready to support both the classics and the next big thing. I have not read/seen Game of Thrones, (I hear great things about the series, though!), but I’m familiar with all the others I listed and then some. Everybody goes through phases with their interests, as I progressed from animal novels like White Fang to fantasy sagas like His Dark Materials to chick lit like the novels of Sophie Kinsella.
But fantasy is something that I always return to, eager and enthralled by worlds much different than our own. I admit that I love fantasy more than sci-fi (because I prefer elves, magic, and sword-and-bow warfare over robots and aliens any day), but both genres represent escapism. Kain is right: Fantasy has gone mainstream. Fans are no longer just the mouth-breathing, D&D playing nerds in their moms’ basements. But that stereotype to me is offensive, as if all the “cool” fantasy fans will abandon the genre as soon as it gets too popular, like some sort of literary hipsters.
There are hardcore comic-books fans that will still get giddy over the latest Spiderman and Superman comics, no matter how many movies they remake. The same applies to fantasy: some fads like vampires and werewolves will come and go, but the genre will continue to grow and thrive as long as the true fans keep reading…and writing. The bestsellers of this decade have made fantasy-writing even more of a challenge. We shouldn’t be looking for a Harry Potter replacement, but a story that breathes new life and excitement into the genre. And those stories are out there, just waiting to be discovered…
So what are your thoughts? Has fantasy hit a dead end, or is it just getting started? Which stories prove promising, and which ones are just overrated? And perhaps most importantly–what IS fantasy? Has the genre grown and evolved, or have all the crossovers diluted what constitutes true fantasy? Let me know!