Author Topic: Current Trends in Fantasy in the UK  (Read 3193 times)

Offline Lermontov

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Current Trends in Fantasy in the UK
« on: June 20, 2007, 11:38:14 am »
I've posted some rambling musings about my perception of current trends in fantasy in the UK.

Now while I for one am aware of the varied if confusing variety of fantasy among the independent and small presses, I am thinking more of the major publishing imprints here in the UK, and I have focused on upcoming new authors being published by them and not ongoing, already established authors. In this respect the scene is dominated my Gollancz and Orbit it seems, so I assume if one wants to make it 'big time' from the off one might aspire to be published by either of these two!

Aim for Venus and you still might get the Moon...

I would be interested in other publishers folk know of out there, which also carry that kind of clout. Just to get a fuller picture.

One has to be informed. Gone are days when a shy author might potter about in his or her study and be picked up by an editor in an altruistic way. One has to be professional about the whole business now and have an insight into how it works and who the players are.

And if you don't self-promote now, you're dead in the water. That goes for the established authors too, as I am sure they will tell those of us who haven't got anywhere near that far.

The New Fantastics?

I have been watching the releases in the past months and there seems to be a trend towards 'rogues' gallery fantasy' with Scott Lynch (American) and Joe Abercrombie (both from Gollancz) getting lots of exposure and well-thought of in reviews and on forums. Anachronistic modern humour made integral to the milieu (and very modern expletives in Lynch's case) that seem to have wide appeal, especially among males! The humour didn't work for me. Must be getting old.

There are still the ongoing doorstoppers to contend with: Martin, Jordan, Erikson - that don't seem to be influencing the new British authors. Granted books like Stormcaller (Tom Lloyd - another Gollancz release) and Winterbirth (Brian Ruckley - Orbit) would seem to be more familiar, impending apocalypse-type fantasy fare. There are also the high concept books - Scar Night by Alan Campbell (Tor) touted as the next China Melville and the Bakker (who is Canadian) series; given that he is a philosopher by trade and this background is imbued into the series.

What does seem clear is that the genre seems generally dominated by precocious male authors at the moment. There is much talk of how in the late 80s and 90s fantasy was character-driven and the dominant authors were women (material for a seminar there!). But the books that have been making waves recently and keep cropping up seem most often to be written by men (no, I haven't forgotten about Steph Swainston, nor the established female authors out there with a track record of former series and ongoing ones, a few among the Write Fantastic).

There are the left-field books - the Naomi Noviks (her series optioned by Peter Jackson recently, no less) which I call 'left-field' because of a curious hook - dragons in the Napoleonic Wars (and very good writing, I assume) that transcends the confines of the bookshelves and the publishing stables. The Hal Duncans - heavily influenced by the 'jamboree brain' high-concept work of Neal Stephenson among others, in my opinion (of itself not offered as some sort of veiled criticism, I hasten to add!).

All this is of interest to me because I wonder where the stuff I'm struggling to get done might 'fit in'. But then, of course, if you worry about that for too long you'll probably never fit in at all!

What I am hoping to see increasingly in fantasy, is literate fantasy fiction, a little less cosy tweeness for which in the past it has been infamous. There are great authors in the past who are part of the (like it or not, the consensus is there) Western Canon, who wrote fantasy and horror and SF. What type of story exactly is Conrad's 'The Secret Sharer', or 'Falk'? Both have elements of the ghostly and the horrific when open to interpretation; while Kipling wrote many horror stories with elements of the fantastic in them.

The signs are good, since many of the above mentioned 'next big thing' authors - male and female - are often far from easy reading on the tube or the train at 8am in the morning.

I have to accept that I will probably never be the 'next big thing', being over - oh, boy, well over - 35 (actually being over 30 is pushing it in the youth-is-always-right image-driven media world) and this does not fit in with the young-talented-and-flamboyant/iconoclastic marketing dream I see touted all about me in literature, genre-related or otherwise. (And they all seem to have long hair - the girls as well!)

Fiction, before all else in the business-bloody modern world is a product to be marketed before it is art - and this means the whole package. (You know 'we're doomed' when Paolini is a bestseller - Yes there have been precocious artistic geniuses in their teens, but he isn't one of them- and like another very famous author is in substantial part a triumph of marketing phenomenon over substance).

There is an element of grimness and fatalism in all of this (I am half-Slav, after all!) and you realise just have to get your head down, keep digging through that dark tunnel on all undignified fours and believe that the point of light ahead of you is not merely a self-deluding, dirt-scratched cornea.

It has been ever thus: the world does not owe you a living and it is not nor ever has been, fair. And you must simply persevere and trust that if you possess a modicum of talent (and only the most absurdly self-deluded or uncovincingly disingenuous would attempt this as a living who didn't - I'm certainly not the latter, therefore...ulp!) - yes that the talent, such as it is, 'twill eventually out.

As a rider to that: for authors touted as exciting and iconoclastic, once they begin to believe in the 'mythology' being marketed about them and acting up to it, artistically they are usually going to be done for.  The new would be 'literary Rock 'n' Roll' take note! Many mistake genuine inconoclasm (and basically if you're not Beethoven you can forget being iconoclastic - and there is only one Beethoven!) for what is  simply being uncouth. So while there might be lots of talent out there, I am also looking for those in possession of it who also have a good deal of self-possession in terms of their personal artistic integrity. This is perhaps the hardest thing of all for the incipient writer to achieve and sustain, since sales  and image-related marketing in connection with it  are everything.

And there are former generation writers out there, more across the water maybe,  who seem to be writing stuff now not because it is what they necessarily want to be writing but because it is like the stuff they wrote before that got the sales and they are perhaps being counselled/coerced into writing thus because their last, genuinely exploratory, self-developing stuff didn't do so well.

God! What an insane profession to want to break into!
« Last Edit: June 21, 2007, 09:26:20 am by Lermontov »

Troo

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Re: Current Trends in Fantasy in the UK
« Reply #1 on: June 22, 2007, 11:10:03 am »
God! What an insane profession to want to break into!

Yeah. What does that say about us, though?  ;D

Offline Jen

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Re: Current Trends in Fantasy in the UK
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2007, 12:20:12 pm »
God! What an insane profession to want to break into!

Yeah. What does that say about us, though?  ;D

That we're all stark raving crackers...   ;D

Solaris is establishing itself very well as a genre publisher - I've got a couple of their books on order and it looks like they're covering a good range.
If they haven't quite got the clout of Orbit/Gollancz, I don't think it's going to take them too long.


The New Fantastics?


What does seem clear is that the genre seems generally dominated by precocious male authors at the moment. There is much talk of how in the late 80s and 90s fantasy was character-driven and the dominant authors were women (material for a seminar there!). But the books that have been making waves recently and keep cropping up seem most often to be written by men (no, I haven't forgotten about Steph Swainston, nor the established female authors out there with a track record of former series and ongoing ones, a few among the Write Fantastic).

There are the left-field books - the Naomi Noviks (her series optioned by Peter Jackson recently, no less) which I call 'left-field' because of a curious hook - dragons in the Napoleonic Wars (and very good writing, I assume) that transcends the confines of the bookshelves and the publishing stables. The Hal Duncans - heavily influenced by the 'jamboree brain' high-concept work of Neal Stephenson among others, in my opinion (of itself not offered as some sort of veiled criticism, I hasten to add!).

There's also seems to be quite a strong market for the supernatural romance stuff ala Hamilton, Harrison, Armstrong etc.   Is this because they're getting in the romance fans to keep them popular or do people really want another book about a kick ass supernatural chick dealing with a complicated love life to the backdrop of vampires and werewolves et al.?


Offline joshua rainbird

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Re: Current Trends in Fantasy in the UK
« Reply #3 on: July 06, 2007, 07:00:27 pm »
That and the teen-Wicca market and the Dan Brown clones.

It seems to me that the big distributors are cashing in on dead-certs rather than taking a risk. So it's inevitable that books that are essentailly pastiches of established film-scenes will get shelf-space.

When did the word 'novel' become an oxymoron?  :-\
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Troo

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Re: Current Trends in Fantasy in the UK
« Reply #4 on: July 06, 2007, 09:26:05 pm »
Witches and Wizards are in among the YA audience, as well as Young James Bond clones. It's always the way, though. A novel novel, followed by a clutch of wannabes.

Now I just have to pray for a publisher for my unique tale of a boy wizard living with his abusive fat non-wizard uncle before anyone else thinks of it, or I'll just look like a copycat!

Offline mightyjoeyoung

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Re: Current Trends in Fantasy in the UK
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2011, 02:01:41 pm »
How far have things progressed since the original post when the general public's awareness of Horror and Fantasy seems trapped by teenage vampire romances and other fast-buck fodder?