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Is Fantasy Going Away?

When I first started writing fantasy, science fiction—particularly space opera—was all the rage. No one was interested in fantasy. Then came the Lord of the Rings movies and speculative fiction shifted. Is it about to shift again? True, the Hobbit […]
| Jan 10, 2011 | No comments |

When I first started writing fantasy, science fiction—particularly space opera—was all the rage. No one was interested in fantasy. Then came the Lord of the Rings movies and speculative fiction shifted. Is it about to shift again?

True, the Hobbit has yet to be made, and there are still four Narnia books left to adapt to the big screen, but Harry Potter is finished and Disney has announced an end to their fairy tale movies. If film is an indicator of the direction books will take, I can’t help but wonder where fantasy is headed.

I suppose the swing of the pendulum is bound to teeter toward science fiction again, and I think there is some indication that process has begun. Fantasy for several years has favored the urban kind or dystopian fantasy—another name for apocalyptic or futuristic fantasy. How, I wonder, is this latter so different from futuristic science fiction?

Television has continued to produce science fiction even during this fantasy phase. Stargate: SG1 and it’s spawns have lead the way along with Battlestar Galactica. More recently V, a reprisal of an 1980s miniseries, has hit prime time.

The film industry seems to be edging toward science fiction as well. Star Trek, the 2009 prequel to the television series by that title, was well received by critics and viewers alike. And Avatar, arguably best categorized as science fantasy, was a blockbuster hit.

One way or another, speculative fiction seems to have an enduring place in our culture. Horror has even had its heyday when The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone were two of the most watched television shows. More recently Buffy the Vampire Slayer was followed by Angel, Supernatural, and The Vampire Diaries.

The question I can’t help but ask is this: in what direction are books headed? In particular, in what direction is Christian fiction headed?

And these secondary questions: Will Christian publishers embrace speculative fiction as the culture’s love affair with the genre continues? Will “science fiction” become the next dirty word to those seeking “safe fiction” rather than God-glorifying fiction? If not “horror,” what place does “supernatural suspense” have in Christian fiction? Can fantasy and science fiction share the spot light, or will the pendulum inevitably shift to one side or the other?

While you’re pondering these questions, science fiction fans may want to check out Ray Gun Revival, Version 2.0. This online ezine for Space Opera and “Golden Age Sci Fi,” which lost its support structure when Double-Edge Publishing was sold, is relaunching February 1. Writers may submit stories and readers may subscribe to receive updates. Enjoy! 😀

Best known for her aspirations as an epic fantasy author, Becky is the sole remaining founding member of Speculative Faith. Besides contributing weekly articles here, she blogs Monday through Friday at A Christian Worldview of Fiction. She works as a freelance writer and editor and posts writing tips as well as information about her editing services at Rewrite, Reword, Rework.

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D Bell
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D Bell

Hard to say what the trends will be since Christian Fiction tends to be about two years behind secular.

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

And Christian-evangelical culture as a whole tends to be three to five years behind.

Source: the pathetic proliferation of “Fear Factor”-themed stunts among youth-groupies, based on a “reality” television show in the ancient Hundreds. Its producers quit making new episodes in 2006, and even a plan to put all the series on DVD failed because of low sales.

Morgan Busse
Member

Good question. Answer: God only knows 🙂

Krysti
Guest

I’m having trouble believing that Disney is getting out of the fairy-tale business. It’s been very lucrative for them. I’ve lost track of how many spin-offs of The Little Mermaid and Peter Pan (everything Tinkerbell and fairies) we’ve watched thanks to my 10 yr-0ld daughter, who is only just now growing out of the whole “Everything’s gotta be Disney Princesses or I really don’t want it” stage!

As for the rest, if the pendulum is swinging to favor Science Fiction, that may be one reason why Marcher Lord Press is favoring science fiction so heavily too. I’d like to see Jeff put a few more fantasy books into print, but I’m not disappointed either way. Grace Bridge’s company, Splashdown Books, seems geared equally toward sci-fi and fantasy, and Port Yonder Press is also interested in both.

Rachel Starr Thomson
Member

As for the rest, if the pendulum is swinging to favor Science Fiction, that may be one reason why Marcher Lord Press is favoring science fiction so heavily too.

Oh, I hope not. I just assumed he was getting more really good submissions in sci-fi/dystopia than in fantasy.

Joshua O'Neal
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Joshua O'Neal

Hm. I hadn’t really noticed the shift as much (possibly because I haven’t bought a new book in awhile.) but it wouldn’t surprise me.

I did always think Christian writers did better in the medium of pure fantasy, though. 😉

Shawn Lamb
Guest

Is Fantasy going away? Not from the people I meet at shows, events and signings. In fact, most complain about the direction Christian fiction is taking by following the secular marketing, especially with horror, witches and vampires invading.

The problem is publishers aren’t listening to these people who want more solid stories based upon moral themes be it fantasy or other genre. This leaves us indie authors scrambling to try and get the message out that there are those of us who write these types of books. As with anything, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so the impression is a shift.

As for Disney, my husband’s been in the animation business for decades and yes, they are changing and stated such. The Princess and the Frog being a flop – by Disney’s standards – is what caused the changed.

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Stuart Stockton
Member

I don’t think fantasy is going away, though it may be less pronounced than it has been in the last few years.

Also it could be for books there will be more fantasy than ever flowing out if more authors decide to skip the major publishing route and go with a smaller publisher or just publish themselves electronically.

We may just be looking at finding our favorite genres in new places as the entire publishing industry changes.

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

I’m having trouble believing that Disney is getting out of the fairy-tale business. It’s been very lucrative for them. I’ve lost track of how many spin-offs of The Little Mermaid and Peter Pan (everything Tinkerbell and fairies) we’ve watched thanks to my 10 yr-0ld daughter, who is only just now growing out of the whole “Everything’s gotta be Disney Princesses or I really don’t want it” stage!

Since John Lasseter began his tenure as Disney’s chief creative officer (part of the deal that aided Disney’s purchase of Pixar), he’s been cutting off all the seemingly limitless spinoffs — particularly (in my view) the annoying ones that are “sequels” of classic films made more than 50 years ago. So methinks that, except for the “Tinker Bell” franchise (which seems just silly), the direct-to-video spinoffs are long-gone.

But as for the fairy-tale films, yes, according to a long newspaper article I read (which I am still trying to re-locate), they’re done with them. Marketing to little children seems not-lucrative-enough. The dream market is “tweens” and older, and supposedly the boys only ever care about “boy stuff” like video games, and the girls, celebrity crazes.

In my view, that’s too bad, because not only was Tangled fantastic, and better than Princess and the Frog, but the values it celebrates — independence yet friendship, chivalry yet authenticity, true love yet realism — are much more timeless than the next great celebrity-that-feeds-on-itself insipidity. This is also why, even as a male, I enjoyed the 2007 Disney live-action/animated film Enchanted. You can have fun, laugh at some of the fairy-tale conventions, and even make things more-modern, while keeping those timeless themes of true love, self-sacrifice and redemption. And of course, all those echo God’s truth, even in little ways, much better than self-sustaining “we’re-singing-about-singing” celebrity-worship.

Heather
Guest

I sure hope that fantasy’s not going away, considering that I love writing it!

Becky
Guest

I agree, I would be mortified if either fantasy or science fiction were going away. There is a really great book titled, “Pink Noise: A Posthuman Tale” by Leonid Korogodski that I wish someone would make into a film. It is a great psychological thriller/adventure book, set in the future. A battle takes place both in the physical realm and in the mind. It is something every science fiction movie goer would LOVE!

Jeff Gerke
Guest

Good discussion, you guys. As for Marcher Lord Press veering away from fantasy, that’s simply not so. This coming April, 2 of our 3 books will be fantasies. In our short existence as a publisher, we will this April have released 6 fantasies, 9 SF, and 3 hard-to-categorize speculative novels.

I do like SF, but I also love fantasy. I’m not going to be doing fewer in the future. Especially since fantasy sells about five times better for me than SF, and SF sells about three times better for me than any other speculative genre besides fantasy.

Having said that, I have to publish what I think is excellent. If I have two books come before me, one a fantasy and the other a SF, and the SF is better, that’s the one I’m going to publish. And if I happen to have three amazing SF novels, that’s what I’m going to go with.

In TV and movies, I think it’s harder to make a fantasy not look cheesy. With CGI, a SF can look pretty sweet these days, while computer graphics don’t help a fantasy as much (yet). I think that’s why the visual media goes for SF more than fantasy lately.

The era of the small Christian niche publisher is upon us. We’re not going to have fewer fantasy, imo. But we are going to see many of the “red-headed stepchild” speculative genres finally have their day too.

Kaci Hill
Member

Just to pitch it out there, Jeff and Jake have a great discussion on this on the Fiction Addict podcast. 0=)

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Frank Creed
Member

I just wanted to make sure that http://www.resaliens.com/ and the newer http://www.crossandcosmos.com/ magazines were mentioned. The former is science fiction, but the latter publishes all speculative fiction.
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