1. Sherwood Smith says:

    While I agree fervently with the general point, it really saddens me to see the paragraph that begins with “get the feeling sometimes, when looking at the hundreds and hundreds of fantasy novels on the shelf at Barnes & Noble . . .”
    Here we seem to have the hearts and minds, passion, experience and maybe even insight of those hundreds of writers judged by the covers a marketing department sees fit to put on their books–usually without consulting them.
    There are enough stones thrown at fantasy writers, as is pointed out so poignantly at the start. I do wish other writers wouldn’t join the mob.

  2. Sherwood,
    I must not have been clear with what I was saying. I spend most of my time in the sci-fi/fantasy section marveling at the covers. It’s the covers I love! It’s the books that are usually a let down.

  3. Charles M says:

    I was wondering where you were going with this; when a story bursts out of me, I don’t stop to think what the genre is and I thought you meant I had to classify it AND stop writing something called fantasy. My heart skipped a beat for a brief moment!

    Reading it through, I see that your essay is essentially saying what my experience is – do not write for the market, craft the story that forms within you. I agree. What messes the tale is the constant eye on what sells or what is the in thing.

    And I agree about the covers. I sometimes leave the book unopened because the cover promises a lot and I would rather just imagine what’s within. 🙂

  4. Thank you Andrew for holding us to a higher standard. It is Story that is king no matter the genre. I know that some of us may feel uncomfortable with your post but you are right on the money. I love what your brother, Pete said last week, and I’m paraphrasing, about writing a good story and the Christian worldview will come through because is is from this point of view that the author views reality. So concentrate on the Story. Shape it with color and feeling and emotion as Walter Wangerin, Jr. told us last August at Hutchmoot.

    In speculative fiction, we populate our worlds with dragons and orcs and elves because in their personalities and characters, we can best tell the story. Jesus told stories with fig trees and seeds cast on stone and pig sties and  a rich ruler thirsting for one drop of water. It is the Truth behind the Story that makes the writing live and breathe. Thank you for reminding us of that.

    Long live the Dragon Sword! Of course, now I’m dying to know who “Hot Toddie” is!

  5. Kaci says:

    I think this is the second time I’ve read this. Twas just as lovely. 0=) Thanks much.  Genre’s little more than the stage, curtains, and backdrop, I think.  And like you, I read mostly non-fantasy titles as well. I’d say more, but…tis all there is. 

  6. Ian G says:

    You like similar stories and novels that I like. I don’t care for poetry but you’ve encouraged me to give it a try.
    So where do I start? I have an old Shakespeare tome with his sonnets etc. I love the KJV Bible poetry. Got any casual suggestions?


  7. Great reminder. You have so much going for you simply because you are a poet. Add your faith to that, and it’s no wonder that your opening chapters of On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness are some of the most delightful around. 

    I’m afraid that many writers today can’t tell important stories, because they are biblically illiterate.  It wasn’t so long ago that even nonchristians understood what the Bible said and were influenced by the golden rule and sacrificial love. Now, not only do nonchristians not know what the Bible says, many Christians don’t know either. I think that is part of the reason we have so many thin stories, today.

    • Kaci says:

      Ironically, it was my classical world lit prof with a preference for Nietzsche that told all of us to “read the Bible or you’ll never understand Western literature.” Had an intermediate level fiction prof say something similar.

  8. Mollie Griffith says:

    Oh, boy.  I would have really enjoyed that essay if I hadn’t been distracted by wondering what Ben Shive’s nickname is. 
    Seriously, thanks for putting into concise format what my brain has been sporadically hinting to me!

  9. Andrew, thanks much for a great guest spot.

    I truly believe that’s the reason why I love some fantasy, not just because it’s fantastic and out-there, but for what it echoes back about God, the world, and myself (right or wrong). That can also be done by another genre of story, perhaps a great contemporary thriller or even more-real-world-based drama. Yet it seems that the best and most epic-visioned stories tend to overlap or completely fall within the scope of more-visionary genres.

    I also truly believe this is because of our yearning for what Lewis called Joy, that inward desire that can be felt (though severely misdirected) even by those who hate its Source. Christ has promised to fulfill that longing, and the very physical New Heavens and New Earth, under His loving lordship, will be the world we’ve always dreamed of.

    And only in that After-world will the fantastic become real, all for God’s glory and our joy.

  10. George Petrou says:

    I am excited to see someone of faith who is not affraid to write, read and enjoy all forms of the writen word.

    Being Greek Orthodox means that The Lord is with us every day, in every aspect of our lives…..but that doesn’t mean that we cannot read bokk that expand our faith through questions and speculations.

    Only through questioning will the answers come.
    good luck with the tour and your novel.

    Oh, and a plug for a Canadian writing duo….Steve Erickson and Ian C. Essilmont.

    Thanks again 

  11. Annie says:

    Beautifully written dear brother but you are kidding yourself if you think the Wingfeather Saga isn’t every bit as lasting and important as Narnia and the tales of one Frodo Baggins. These books have touched my heart forever and I will pass them on to my children and their children after.

  12. Galadriel says:

    I read and write the stories that burn with passion and a hint of the Kingdom beyond our sight.
    And most of those happen to be fantasy.

  13. Rachel says:

    Some more great thoughts, Andrew! After reading your HP post the other day, I knew you had an artist’s heart. 🙂
    And isn’t it our job as artists who are Children of the Living King to follow in His footsteps and create? But not just anything–we should perfect and hone, sweat and toil, over our work to make it a worthy sacrifice.  
    Thanks for the reminder!

  14. Bill McGrath says:

    Great article.
    While writing my own fantasy novels (The Sword of Fire series) I have to remind myself not to spend so much time writing about made up heroes that I stop being a real hero to my son-even if that is just the help with the homework/shoot some hoops kind of hero.
    Bill McGrath

  15. David says:

    Very encouraging post to read, and brimming with the best kind of hope — the kind that makes me want to get to work.
    Particularly enjoyed the paragraphs in the middle on C. S. Lewis on setting.  He was spot on.  And his comments apply to any kind of narrative, fictional or historical — Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, for example, wouldn’t be the same without his first chapter about the situation of Britain and Ireland.

  16. Marion says:

    Excellent Post, Andrew!
    This was the best part:
    “I don’t think the fantasy genre (or the speculative fiction genre, if you like) will produce anything really lasting until its writers stop writing fantasy and start writing great books that happen to be speculative.”
    We all should focus on good stories and it will fit into the genre it needs to belong to.

  17. John Weaver says:

    Good thoughts, Andrew. Dan Simmons, the world class sci-fi author, has made similar comments about contemporary sci-fi. People get so busy reading sci-fi that they don’t read great literature from other genres, without which it is virtually impossible to be a good writer.
    P.S. Even relatively “simple” book series, like the 90’s Battletech series, showed often profound knowledge of literature and non-Western cultures, something sadly lacking in much contemporary sci-fi and fantasy. There are more classical allusions in one chapter of Perelandra than probably contained in the entire output of Christian sci-fi over the last 20 years (Lawhead excluded).

  18. […] Please Stop Writing Fantasy Novels — Andrew Peterson on the importance of being read, and on the value of a great story. Speaking of which, North! Or Be Eaten, the second book of Peterson’s excellent “Wingfeather Saga”, is currently on sale at Amazon for less than $5! […]

  19. Nikole Hahn says:

    I love the possibilities fantasy writers present, something other worldly. It simply echoes our desire for Heaven.

  20. Izzy says:

    Great post! I just found it now, even though it’s been a little over a month.
    I had one question, though.

    But don’t let that stop you from working to make something beautiful, from the cover to the paper stock, all the way to the sound of the sentences and the utter absence of every possible adverb.

    What did you mean by “utter absence of every possible adverb”? Does that mean a beautiful book should not have adverbs in it?

  21. […] Personal fave singer/songwriter/YA-Christian-fantasy-writer Andrew Peterson’s thoughts on striving for good art in fantasy writing. […]

  22. […] what a miracle it is that my family, my friends, and my God choose to walk with me in fellowship. —Read More! LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); LD_AddCustomAttr("Origin", "other"); […]

  23. Izzy: Yes. If possible. Sometimes they work, but most of the time they’re a sign that the author was too lazy to think of a better verb.

  24. Actually George MacDonald wrote two adult fantasy novels in the Victorian era. Phantastes and Lilith. Don’t forget all the fantasy for children written either.

    Also–if you include all spec fiction–science fiction has been around since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in 1818.

What do you think?