Urban fantasy, science fantasy, magic realism, dark fantasy, classic fantasy, epic fantasy, fairy tales. It all gets a little mind boggling, to be honest, and a little nichifying.
[As an aside, I just created the word “nichifying”—in the same way that author Gregory Spencer creates words for a people group in his Welkening novels. Must be catching! 😉 ]
Yes, nichifying. And honestly, I don’t like being shoved into a niche, or a stereotype. I don’t like being pigeonholed, categorized, classified, marginalized, or any such narrowizing.
Being labeled as a fantasy writer seems like part of the marketing/selling necessities. Identifying myself as a Christian fantasy author reveals my worldview, and therefore seems important. But from then on? I don’t like the divisions and the subdivisions.
What exactly do these additional terms give us? I suggest they give us separation.
I most enjoy epic fantasy, also known as high fantasy or classic fantasy. Does that mean I shouldn’t read Kathryn Mackel’s Birthright Chronicles, a science fantasy series? Or Robin Parrish’s superheros stories? If I had stayed within the bounds of the epic fantasy genre, I would never have discovered Watership Down (Richard Adams), one of my favorite books of all time. Or another favorite,Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis.
I guess I feel strongly about this labeling issue because I don’t like the implied message genre distinctions—and now these sub-genre distinctions—give to readers: These books are only for the sci fi geeks or These books are only for readers who want to lose themselves in a made up world.
But don’t good stories draw readers regardless of genre?
This might seem like an odd thing for someone passionate about fantasy to be saying, but I bristle at being nichified. The only niche I want to be in is that of good author. I’m not there yet. I’m not even in the published author niche, but that’s where I’d prefer to be, rather than in some other division that chases away readers.
Here’s why I love to write fantasy:
That’s it. But what those two points add up to as I see it, is writing Big.
I’ve plotted a contemporary story and written several chapters. It happens to be a story I believe in and hope to finish some day. I think it’s a Big story, too, so I’m not saying fantasy is the only way an author can create Big stories.
However, it seems to me fantasy requires Bigness.
But to bring this back to the original point, I believe the slicing and dicing of a genre into all the different sub-genres reduces this Bigness. Nichifying belittles the books forced into ever-shrinking categories for ever-reducing markets.
By comparison we might say cats are only for cat lovers—you animal lovers need not apply to be cat owners. How silly.
An edited version of an article originally posted at A Christian Worldview of Fiction February 8, 2008.