Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Wild and Wooly

I was talking to Cliff the other day about the current state of the Fantasy/Science Fiction book market, and how it seems that the sheer imagination and sense of wonder has just been leeched right out of the genre. The days are gone when people would write books where a 200 year old time traveler turns out to be Tarzan or where an alternate reality version of Adolph Hitler writes sword & sorcery novels or a college professor finds he can enter the worlds of fiction by the use of symbolic logic and so on and so forth. Instead in the SF world we seem to have an unending string of "Military" SF novels and vampire detective books.
Next door in the fantasy room we get endless Tolkien clones and thinly disguised romance novels about dragons and more vampires. I guess it's the feeling of sameness that bugs me. Fantasy and SF used to be a dangerous place. A wild an wooly place. Guys like Farmer and Moorcock and Ellison and Spinrad and Lieber were getting their dreams and nightmares down on paper. It wasn't a safe place but it wasn't a boring, predictable place. Maybe I'm just looking at the wrong authors these days but Fantasy/SF just seems like a cozy place where nothing strange or new is likely to happen. What should be the most wide open of all genres seems to be controlled by publishers. As Cliff noted, rather than finding new books and authors and looking for readers for them, now publishers seem to have a narrow list of categories that they want writers to fit into. So I keep digging through old books to find "something rich and strange."


John Corey said...

I think what is missing is an element of horror. That is why I like K.E.W so much. I agree with you about current fantasy. The only writer I like in fantasy right now is Patricia McKillip. Yes, they are romantic... but deeply rooted in fairy tale. Give Ombria in Shadow a chance. I have been back collecting all the Ramsey Campbell I can. I guess that is what is great about old books... they can be dug up, and there are so many, you can be sure you are only scratching the surface.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Oh yeah, Ramsey Campbell is great. His collection Alone With the Horrors has some of the best short horror fiction I've read. And his sword & Sorcery tales about Rhyre are very well done. Think you have a good point about the horror element.