Funny how things sneak up on us. I just noticed, like in the last couple of weeks, that I have more or less stopped reading contemporary fantasy fiction. Over the last couple of years, and especially in 2006, I stopped buying books by the few modern fantasy writers I liked. Raymond Feist, Bob Salvatore, Steven Brust, Glen Cook. I'd even passed on the last several books by the late David Gemmell, the man who had brought me back to the fantasy fold. In fact, I think the only current fantasy novel that I've read so far this year was David Weber's Oath of Swords. (And I didn't like the sequel, by the way, so probably won't be reading the third book in the series.)
Looking at my shelves now, I can only see a couple of fantasy books that are not in some way connected to either Robert E. Howard or Edgar Rice Burroughs. (I'm including the works of H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith in the Howard related volumes.) Basically if it's not connected to Weird Tales or Tarzan it's pretty much gone.
As I said, this sort of sneaked up on me. I had been growing more and more dissatisfied with the current state of fantasy over the last couple of years. Too many Tolkien knock offs and too many vampire books. Neither are my cup of tea. The authors mentioned above, Feist, Gemmell, etc, all write action oriented books in fantasy settings, which is what I was looking for, but even those have ceased to hold my interest. I can't give any definite reasons why but I can hazard a few guesses.
First, my reading has made a major shift toward non-fiction over the last four of five years. I read more non-fiction than fiction these days. mostly history, biography and literary studies. Second, I've been reading a lot of historical fiction which has a lot of the same stuff I wanted from fantasy (swords, battles, exotic lands, more swords). Third, I have returned to reading old fashioned sword & sorcery more than high fantasy and almost no one is writing S&S these days. If I want the pure stuff I have to go back and read older books. Fourth, my interests seems to have swung back to crime fiction in terms of escapism reading. Not whodunits, which I've also lost my taste for, but hard boiled stuff. I've been reading that stuff forever but lately it seems to have pushed back to the front of my mind.
In some ways it almost seems that I have swung back toward realism in general. Less fantastic fiction. Less contrived mystery plots. Lots of true stories. Anyway, next time I'm culling books, I suspect the few remaining non Sword & Sorcery fantasy books I have left will go the way of so much of my old collection.