Thursday, November 19, 2015

Sour Grapes?

Students have a half day of instruction today, meaning only about a third show up and it's a scheduled "work" day for my classes anyway (they are writing), so I fell down the rabbit hole of Goodreads and found my already high levels of frustration growing ever so slightly, so this may be a short rant.

I'm sure that what I'm about to post can easily be translated as sour grapes, but I hope not. It's just me wondering out loud.

When I first conceptualized the book that became WINTER'S DISCORD, I wanted it to be a YA GAME OF THRONES(properly titled A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE because this was pre-HBO show) and it was partially inspired by the great THE TOUGH GUIDE TO FANTASY LAND. (A book that is buried in a tote somewhere and I feel like I have to find again.) I've chronicled how I started it...much like the aforementioned A GAME OF THRONES (book, not TV show), the first scene popped in my head the same way it did for GRRM. It's very different now than it was then, but the concepts were the same. Ben was Toby. Jeremy was always Jeremy and Jess was known as Cat in that draft. The Princess's name was Isabella not Luciana. And I didn't have any idea where to go from that first scene. When I finally did, I looked at all the things I liked about THRONES and tried to loosely duplicate them, throwing in elements and tropes from Tamora Pierce's ALANNA series along with callbacks to the ever present DRAGONLANCE. This was 2006ish. I finished a full first draft some time in late 2007 and prepped it for it's first round of submissions in 2008, around the time my daughter was born. So I've been at this for a while. And this is the root of my frustration with the whole "YA GAME OF THRONES" thing.

Since the explosion of the show, it feels like every epically flavored YA fantasy that comes out has the lable of "YA GAME OF THRONES" slapped on it and when I read them, I find that few of them are anything like the books (and show) that I love. There was one, that I won't mention by name here, that pushed the "YA GAME OF THRONES" thing big time, so I was excited and read it. It was crap. It read like someone just read the Wikipedia entry on GAME OF THRONES, saw incest, used that as a major plot device only to undo it later while using every terrible, cliched YA writing trope  along the way. I often joke about the COVER ALL YA fantasy/dystopia bingo game in a lot of these books and this book had it. In droves.

To be fair, there have been many books that are worthy of that title. Cinda Williams Chima's SEVEN REALMS (we call that allusion in the literature business), Marie Rutkoski's WINNER series (I have to get book two), Tamora Pierce's ALANNA (even though that predates THRONES by decades), Abercrombie's SHATTERED SEAS (though that seems to get shelved with mostly adult fantasy), Jennifer Nielsen ASCENDANCE trilogy (though I thought that would've been better with some 3rd person POV in it) and Sarah J. Maas's THRONE OF GLASS series all come to mind.

Has this become a flooded market? Has the YA GAME OF THRONES become the vampires of today?

I hope not.


Neil Richard said...

I think ,to some degree, fantasy has run it's course. But then again, it hasn't. Sounds like a politician, I know, but stick with me a minute. GOT has been a big hit on HBO and it's rippling. Shannara is coming to MTV. Terry Brooks. MTV. That, to me, is a huge clue that fantasy has saturated the market. Maybe even over saturated it.

But look at the source material. GOT was published in 1996 and Sword of Shannara in 1977. That's 20 to 40 years before making it to the small screen. But they were popular at the time. So does that mean there's a 20 year gap between waves of popularity for fantasy? I don't think so. I think with technology the way it is now (think e-books and smart phones), it's easy for consumers to get reading material they want. And fantasy books don't have the stigma they once did.

So I think the bottom line for me is that it's a little in between. It's a little over-saturated in the market, but it'll balance out only slightly less than where it is now. Fantasy will still be popular but just a hair less than today.

John Zeleznik said...

They'll always be room in the market for epic fantasy and it seems every few years someone declares epic fantasy dead, and while it goes away from the public consciousness for a while, it never really goes away. This is why we still talk about Tolkien, Brooks, Eddings and the like. We've reached the point where we can add Martin and Jordan to that list now too...and I know that people can make arguments for Erickson and Bakker as well, but they haven't grabbed me yet.

It's just convenient right now for marketing people to slap the label on something and frustrating to me as an author that has tried to create a tribute/allusion to the books I love for the teen audience that I might miss and/or get caught up in the inevitable wave of backlash.

Or I could just be whining.