The New Fantasy

Lou Anders of Pyr talks about the New Fantasy over at the Agony Column podcast. Anders cites Tom Lloyd, Joe Abercromie and Mark Chadbourn among others as. Is this post 9/11 fantasy? Are the values of sword and sorcery penetrating high fantasy? Is this a new debate, or is there always a new fantasy? Certainly the likes of Eddings, Brooks and Feist are starting to look dated. But truthfully, do people want ‘realistic, gritty’ fantasy? Its interesting that most of these writers are British. Is the sceptered isle about to wreak the same revolution on epic fantasy in the 00’s that it did on space opera in the 80’s? Maybe. Maybe.


Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

3 thoughts on “The New Fantasy

  1. Ah! Other people are talking about the “new wave”! Awesome. I’ve written some rough ramblings on Fantasy – I did so to inform some rather misguided youths on the about the state of Fantasy today and not really for any kind of professional publication but hopefully one day I’ll be a little less cavalier and do some in-depth discussion on it.

    I think there’s perhaps too much confusing and vague terminology floating around like “sword and sorcery”, “high fantasy”, “epic fantasy”, “light fantasy”, “science fantasy” – it gets a bit ridiculous and I think reflective of the back-to-basics style in fantasy now, we need to simplify all of that and start with the all inclusive term, Fantasy. Reason being, all those “brands” or subgenres of fantasy overlap; they always have. It’s not a new thing.

    Is there always a “new fantasy”? No. But fantasy is always changing and I reject the notion that it was completely static or “old” to the point where there’s a revolution – I think the changes are just more noticeable right now and that’s reflective of the extra interest being paid to fantasy, thanks to Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and the absolute explosion of comics into the mainstream entertainment industry.

    As for the guys talking in the podcast, well, I can’t say I have much respect for them (being just introduced to them, through your link) especially the interviewer, who casually referred to Terry Goodkind as the guy who wrote the fluff fantasy “The Sword of Shannara” series —they are both, of course, referring to Terry Brooks. Terry Goodkind wrote “The Sword of Truth” series and it is of course much, much different.

    It might sound petty but if they can’t get that right, I find it hard to respect their opinions. However, let’s talk about what they’re saying for a second here. From the outset, to compare Morgan’s “The Steel Remains” to Abercrombie is absurd. Actually, I quite like the way “The Steel Remains” deals with war and the ideology of the hero. And while it is written in the style of the “new wave”, I found it to be imitative and didn’t think it was authentic at all, which I talk about it my blog.

    The style and “grit” being noted now can’t be quite considered to be “post-9/11” fantasy, since a few novels exemplify the new wave that came out before 2001, notably Steven Erikson, who combines grittiness, humour, epic storytelling and just genius writing. His first novel came out in 1999.

    I don’t think you can put Rothfuss in amongst the new batch of writers (Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, Bakker—and Scott. R. Bakker for the record is both Canadian, and was published before all of the previous three mentioned) because in both content and style, it is fairly traditional. He just happened to write it well and in a fresh, first person perspective.

    I can’t quite understand the hype around Rothfuss to be honest, his book was very good, very solid but it wasn’t groundbreaking in the slightest, there was almost nothing and I mean, nothing, new in that book. It was just well written, and reminiscent of Robin Hobb in the “Farseer Trilogy”. But it’s not as violent, gritty, or darkly humoured as the particular brand of fantasy to which yuo’re referring.

    Also…I just realised this blog post was made an age ago! Over a year in fact, so I feel a little silly now haha. I just put ‘fantasy’ into the search engine…



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