The other panel that I found of particular interest at FantasyCon was ‘trends in fantasy fiction’. Panellists were Joe Abercrombie, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Tom Lloyd and the discussion was moderated by Juliet E. McKenna.
Being a fantasy writer it has always been a bone of contention to me that there can be one (or indeed several) excellent books released that have a particular style/theme or focus on a particular legend, and then they are followed by a flurry of releases that do nothing more than clone the originals. You know what I mean. It was a relief for the panel to mention the saturation of the young adult market with paranormal (particularly vampire) romance which is something I frequently find myself ranting about. Have we not moved on yet? Surely there is a new idea out there ready to give that trend a break for another decade?
Aside from that, the panel did of course discuss trends in fantasy fiction. They predicted a rise of historical fantasy to come and a focus on the ordinary hero rather than the nobles, wizards and more important characters that always seem to be getting the starring roles.
They discussed the movement of fantasy into a darker – grittier if you like – style, where we are no longer so much concerned with great magics and epic worldbuilding, but with conflict, small details and intricate characterisation. Readers and writers of fantasy are no longer content with a straightforward good vs. evil plot. We need the complexity of the books to mirror the complexity of life, and as Joe Abercrombie questioned, why would you want to isolate your experiences from your writing?
It was interesting to hear about the reading habits of the panellists while they are in the throes of writing fantasy. The general consensus was that reading fantasy while writing gives a danger of being influenced by someone else’s style and that reading non-fiction was a way around this.
In general, none of the panellists were overly concerned about trends and certainly didn’t tailor or focus their writing to account for this. Lead in times for publishing would pretty much prevent that anyway. The speakers felt that real life issues will always affect writers and that writing will always be a way to make sense of those issues, so whilst we will always have trends through marketing campaigns –what’s hot, etc. – and pockets of market influxes, we should not allow this to affect what we write.
Certainly all very good advice that I am taking into my own work.
So that is the end of my FantasyCon re-cap. It was a fantastic weekend, very rewarding and rich in inspiration and information. Great thanks must go to the organisers and I hope to return in 2012.